How can Smart Glasses be used to drive Digital Transformation in the post COVID world?
This picture is surfacing all around the internet, asking people what is initiating Digital Transformation: is it a) CEO, b) CTO, or c) COVID-19? By looking at the current situation, it seems ‘Going Digital’ is not just an opportunity to be grasped anymore but has become the need of the hour. Rising costs, prolonged downtime, in-efficiencies, inability to travel and increased safety concerns are just some of the challenges that are now faced by even the largest organisations in the world.
But necessity drives innovation. The restrictions caused by the pandemic has enforced companies to accelerate their adoption of advanced digital technologies. Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality are such emerging tools which are no longer only something you see in sci-fi movies such as Iron Man or Minority Report. They’ve come to the Shop Floor — and are making quite the impact.
What are Smart Glasses?
Smart glasses are defined as “wearable computer glasses”, that add various forms of information alongside or on to a wearer’s vision.
They work through a combination of display, cameras, sensors, voice recognition, internet connectivity and smart software in order to have some widespread applications across sectors. The ‘head mounted display’ (HMD) has the capability to project digital media that supplement the real world view, whilst wireless connectivity can be achieved through BlueTooth, Wi-Fi networks and independent, and versatile 4G LTE. It draws the similarity from a smartphone with regards to the hardware components like Gyroscope, Microphones and Speakers to enable interoperability between humans and devices.
Here are some of the key features of a Smart Glasses:
- Hands-free enabled voice command
- Image & video capture
- Live video streaming
- Instant access to the documents
- Augmented Reality
Which are the most popular Smart Glasses in the market?
Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple. Some of the biggest and most eminent tech brands have realised the immense opportunity these devices hold and have therefore invested substantial sums of resources in building their very own devices. Perhaps one of the most popular early entrants in the space was the Google Glass in 2013, that was targeted directly towards consumers. Microsoft then launched its game changing Hololens 1 in 2016, which led the way for enterprise focused players such as RealWear, Epson and Vuzix.
What are the benefits of Smart Glasses to enterprises?
- Greater operational efficiency
- Lower operational & maintenance costs
- Enhanced productivity
- Improved health and safety
- More effective on the job learning & training
Where can they be applied in Industries?
- Repair and Maintenance
Machine downtime is one of the most dreaded problems to have in a manufacturing environment as it can result in substantial financial losses to a Company.
“In 2016, the average cost of downtime across all businesses was $260,000 per hour. In some industries such as automotive, the cost can be as high as $50,000 a minute” Source: Thomas Net
The conventional ways of repairing a machine can be extremely time-consuming — and you cannot afford to waste any time when every minute costs thousands of dollars! In many cases, constant guidance is needed from SME’s since workers in the factory might not hold the necessary skills or the knowledge to do it themselves. There would hence be a lot of back and forth between the plant engineers and SME’s or the companies would have to pay large sums of travel expenditure in order to get the SME’s to their plant.
In such situations, smart glasses, coupled with the right software, have the capability to dramatically reduce the time taken to repair a machine or equipment. The audio, video and wireless network capabilities allow effective collaboration between workers. For example, instead of a remote expert having to fly down, an on-field worker can simply put on the glasses to share his field of vision with a remote SME, all the whilst his hands are free to efficiently perform the necessary repair operation.
2. Audits & Inspections
The stringent travel restrictions instigated by the COVID-19 outbreak has made it very difficult for businesses to conduct audits and inspections. Companies are typically reliant on workers to travel on-site which they can’t do so seamlessly anymore.
Features of Smart Glasses such as live video streaming, annotations, storage of documents, voice command, combined together, assist the expert remotely, yet precisely, observe what is happening on a shop-floor that might be on the other side of the world. They can transform conventional audit processes by digitising every step.
For example, a supervisor can wear the Smart Glasses and call the auditor sitting in a remote location, to show a live view of the shopfloor. The paper based SOP’s can be replaced by a digital workflow so the plant supervisor knows exactly what needs to be done. Evidence of a step being completed can be recorded via capturing an image or video, this can then be stored in the back-end for review at a later stage.
3. Training and Safety
Manufacturing industries often have a high job turnover. New employees are hired on a daily basis and therefore need to be trained before going on the shopfloor. Conventional ways of training however can be time consuming and ineffective. Classroom training might not be even possible because of social distancing regulations. Training such large numbers of workers, so frequently, can hence become a vexing problem.
In these scenarios, companies can deploy smart glasses to efficiently train its workers. New joinees can be given these devices which can enable step by step visual and animated digital instructions on the SOP. If at any point they feel the need for live guidance, a simple call to the instructor can be made by simply a voice command. If workers are meant to operate an equipment, a 3D model or “digital twin” of the machine can be overlaid on the wearer’s field of view, whilst also giving them the ability to interact with the virtual replica. This can have a profound effect on their understanding of the process which in turn can lead to higher productivity, reduction in training and reduced costs.
Additionally, workers safety is ensured with its hands-free approach which allows users to interact with the device without the need of holding it in hand. For example, a worker working on high voltage cable can access information on a heads-up display rather than taking out a smartphone and getting distracted.
Which companies are already using Smart Glasses?
- Volkswagen: The German automaker is using 3D Smart Glasses to assist its plant logistics personnel to help speed up order picking
- BP : Smart glasses are currently being deployed by BP across their US onshore operations to remotely connect field workers with the supervisors.
- Royal Dutch Shell: Multinational Oil and Gas company is using smart glasses to automate some of its manual processes to improve efficiency and productivity of their workers.
Importance of Software
It is important to state that simply buying Smart Glasses isn’t going to “digitally transform” your company. To yield the maximum benefits, appropriate software must be selected according to your needs. Unfortunately, many of the software fail to have the necessary features for industry 4.0 scalability. A simple single platform application with video streaming and annotation might only help you for very limited use cases on your shop-floor. On the other hand, a cross-platform application with digital work instructions and powerful authoring system, all under one roof, will cover several use cases and have a much greater impact across the organisation. To find out more about what we have to offer, visit our website.