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When manufacturers want to adopt digital transformation on the factory floor, they face a myriad of choices around device types, connectivity, and data management platforms. Many IIoT projects begin with a need to gather data from machines not originally designed for connectivity. To do that, operations managers must find the right computing platforms, sensors, and software to collect accurate data for real-time analytics at the edge and the cloud. Finding and integrating the right puzzle pieces is often a challenge.
Once a company has a robust smart factory framework in place, it can deploy innovative technologies at the edge, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and even augmented reality (AR).
AR is being deployed in new ways on the factory floor for applications such as machine maintenance—speeding up equipment repairs and lowering costs in doing so. For example, local technicians can link with remote experts for live assistance as they make repairs or software upgrades.
For example, if a machine needs repair, a technician can put on AR smart glasses so that a remote expert can also see a broken part. And they can work together in real time, anywhere the mechanic might be—from the next room or across an ocean. The remote expert can overlay text and drawings on the image visible through the glasses, creating a channel for targeted guidance.
And IoT security expert, TeamViewer, is making augmented reality in the smart factory a reality today. (Video 1)
The @TeamViewer all-in-one IoT Starter Kit gives OT managers and SIs everything they need to begin a secure, successful smart factory deployment. via @insightdottech
In one use case, a robot on an automotive factory floor had a fault and needed repair. The expert who could solve the problem was on the other side of the world, but a technician put on AR smart glasses and connected with the remote expert, who viewed the live video stream and had access to a 3-D model or digital twin representing the robot. The technician also had access to the digital twin in the vision of their smart glasses, and the expert could use the model—along with the ability to draw figures and circle problem areas on the live video stream—to highlight the broken part.
In just a few hours, they were able to find the root of the problem, replace the failed part on the robotic arm, and resume manufacturing. The technician wearing the glasses had never performed these tasks, but that didn’t matter because the expert could walk them through every step using both visual and audible guidance.
“In some cases, there might be only a few experts in the world who can help—and using this technology, you don’t have to put them on a plane and send them across an ocean during a pandemic,” says Harold Gibbs, IoT/AR alliances manager at TeamViewer. “Something that might have taken days or weeks to repair can be fixed in a few minutes.”
One-Stop Smart-Factory Solutions
For manufacturers ready to adopt AR and other digital tools, some software and hardware companies are joining forces to simplify the hardware and software puzzle. All-in-one kits such as the TeamViewer IoT Starter Kit give OT managers and systems integrators everything they need—from gateway to sensors and platform—to begin a secure, successful smart-factory deployment. The basic kit includes an Intel® processor-based Lenovo ruggedized IoT gateway and three Bosch SDK sensors preconfigured to connect to the gateway.
While the kit comes with a standard gateway and sensors, other hardware and software elements can be tailored to fit the needs of individual customers. The solution also adapts to different networking needs, addressing a point of concern for manufacturers who are standardized on a particular type of connectivity or in need of a private LTE network.
“A starter kit with basic components makes it much easier for manufacturers to test the waters and think about how they’re going to solve sensor and networking problems,” says Gibbs. “That hands-on experimentation allows developers and systems integrators to create successful smart-factory solutions much more quickly.”
Once the solution is in place, authorized users can access a web-based dashboard from almost any type of device. There they can view data streams from all devices on the network, create alerts, and tailor custom dashboards and analytics tools. Triggered alerts show up on the dashboard and can be programmed to appear as notifications on users’ smartphones as needed. Data transfer is secured to and from every endpoint, using authentication and end-to-end encryption.
All-in-one IoT starter kits compatible with a diversity of sensors and technologies, including AR smart glasses, offer a new and more accessible route to adoption. “Building a solution from scratch requires a great deal of time and expertise, and it’s particularly difficult right now to gather that expertise in person,” says Gibbs. “Having a kit that’s pre-assembled makes it much easier for manufacturers to experiment, solve problems, and get smart-factory deployments off the ground.
“We are constantly optimizing the interoperability of our AR and IIoT solution to cover the whole value chain,” adds TeamViewer Director of IoT Product Management Aditya Adavi. “Our goal is to enable a seamless interaction between humans and machines by leveraging data to decrease room for human errors, increase uptime, and improve the return on investment.”