At the recent LogiSYM Asia Pacific 2023 conference in Singapore, I came across an interesting Augmented Reality (AR) application for warehouse solutions. TeamViewer demonstrated how an order picker, equipped with the company’s smart AR glasses solution, can perform hands-free vision picking. Order information, augmented within the view of vision of a picker, allow the picker to carry out his task based on the information displayed. Coupled with voice command to validate the ongoing task by the picker, the accuracy of the picking process can be greatly improved. The solution has already seen success in a number of companies, such as DHL and GlobalFoundries.
AR is a very popular technology trend which has gained traction in the past 10 years. By now, most people would be familiar with what AR is, and why it is a useful enabler for companies to have in their digital transformation journey. In recent years, AR continue to be an important enabler, as the need for remote real time monitoring and operations increases, which in turn drives the need for more effective ways to collaborate between people in real time beyond physical boundaries, and as well as the means for effective and reliable management of operations.
A recent success story in Southeast Asia is the implementation of Keppel Offshore & Marine 5G Augmented and Virtual Reality Smart Glass Solution in its yard in Singapore. Last year, in partnership with telecom company M1, a standalone 5G network was deployed at Keppel’s yard to overcome remote working, labor shortages and inefficiencies issues arising from safe management measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Keppel, this pilot project is the first of its type in Southeast Asia’s maritime industry.
Keppel shared several takeaways from this project. For instance, the efficiency of carrying out remote site inspections has been enhanced greatly. During inspections, by augmenting the work instructions on the glass display, site engineers no longer need to manage physical documents on site. Conventionally, the effectiveness of the solution can be limited, due to the need to send large volumes of data (such as engineering 3D visualizations, models, and drawings) over limited bandwidth and connectivity. With 5G enhanced mobile broadband and ultra-reliable low latency connectivity, the experience is made more seamless. The better image streaming quality powered by 5G also allows smart functions, such as automatic detection of microdefects, to value-add the inspection process.
For real time monitoring operations, onsite and onshore personnel work more effectively together on a common platform using Smart Glasses. The AR application enables important sensor data to be overlayed on the field engineer’s field of vision on the Smart Glasses while the field engineer streamed the live feed to the onshore to the onshore personnel and receive real time remote guidance.
Keppel’s Smart Glasses has also enabled an improved collaboration experience for different stakeholders at different project phases, such as pre-construction and construction phase, using remote virtual walkthroughs.
Powering AR with 5G
One thing worth noting from Keppel’s story is that the project is part of Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) 5G Innovation Program, a US$22 million fund that was set up in 2021 with the aim to hasten the adoption and commercialization of 5G solutions in Singapore. Three projects (including Keppel’s), each being the first of its kind in the region, were launched and these 3 projects have one common point: they are all 5G powered AR (and the like) solutions applied in different industries.
Beyond the examples from the 5G Innovation Program, another debut deployment of 5G solution here in Singapore is in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. Last year, Micron partnered with Singtel to roll out its 5G millimeter wave solution for its 3D Nand flash memory fabrication plant for Industry 4.0 manufacturing applications. Using Singtel’s 5G-in-a-box platform, GENIE, customized solutions will be deployed at Micron’s cleanroom to support the development of a variety of digitally enabled and enhanced applications which too include the use of AR for operations and maintenance.
And, in Vietnam, the first smart factory to be automated by 5G is said to be poised for deployment. Viettel Networks and electronics manufacturer, Pegatron, signed an MoU at the Mobile World Congress Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain in early March this year, to jointly test 5G private network service at the Pegatron factory in Hai Phong City. AR/VR applications would be deployed, along with other applications such as code scanning, data processing, product testing, and Dynamics 365 for live streaming.