How augmented reality technologies could impact the future of field work
From a consumer standpoint, the water and wastes industry is often perceived to be as simple as a leaky sink pipe. The industry, however, is much more complex, spanning sewage and water treatment plants and dams. With such complexity in the industry, having the right expertise available when needed can be a big challenge. The reality is field service technicians can only have so much expertise. But techs can utilize technology — specifically augmented reality (AR) — to support improved communication and real-time collaboration and ensure there is expertise always on-site.
AR is quickly becoming a primary tool within field service. AR offers remote assistance software, including smart glasses, digital AR and collaborative AR, which all benefit companies, their technicians and customers by providing a space for collaboration
AR in Water & Wastewater
Field experts may not be available at the time an error occurs. In the case of an emergency, an on-site technician has the ability to connect with an off-site technician via collaborative AR. When an on-site team meets a challenge, remote assistance software allows an expert to be there virtually, with AR features improving the collaborative experience without the need to wait or pause production, saving projects and plant managers time and money.
Aside from repairs, technicians can perform virtual inspections. With the capability to ‘sign off’ on many areas that can impact the performance and safety of operations, virtual inspections can be just as effective at a much lower cost. Furthermore, windshield time spent traveling to a distributed operation is often a misuse of a company’s time and cost.
The Evolution of AR in Field Service
AR has evolved since its introduction in 1957. Today, consumers count on AR capabilities to view furniture inside their homes or to try on virtual sneakers before making a purchase. While the ability to see your dream IKEA bedroom set in your home, a pair of Yeezys on your feet or seeing a highly sought-after creature up close are perks of AR, it has also served a greater purpose in the field service industry, particularly with remote collaboration and service.
Early ventures, like Snapchat’s Spectacles, allowed consumers to share their point of view with followers through the click of a button. Showing the value of smart glasses to on-site service organizations has not been an easy feat. Although major brands, like Facebook, Google and Apple, are working on their adaptations of smart glasses, experts say adoption by the service industry is still far off.
In field service, digital AR comes in the form of work instructions. For instance, how to restart a pump or install a new piece of equipment. The power of digital AR is the ability to receive expert advice without requiring an expert on-site. However, the need to develop relevant work instructions for all common use cases for the field takes time and energy, hindering the ideal use case for AR in the field.
Today, the industry is looking for ways to have an expert in the right place, at the right time. Collaborative AR does that and more with the use of remote assistance software. As the most practical and valuable tool on the market, collaborative AR connects an off-site expert with an on-site person, including technicians and customers, who need information, whether training- or maintenance-related.
Unlike digital AR, collaborative AR exhibits its value immediately. Without the need for digital content, experts can be virtually present at any given time. Such ability allows technicians to demonstrate how to solve a problem in real time, rather than explaining the required steps.
With benefits ranging from ease of use to response times, field technicians in the water and wastes industry can rest assured knowing that inspections can be performed and problems tackled with the power of AR and remote assistance software.