News from the FUTURE.LAB – Maintenance Augmented Reality

In this blog post, we will take another look at what is happening in our FUTURE.LAB. Aside from many other topics, we are currently looking into how new technology may increase the efficiency of maintenance procedures.

The working title “Maintenance AR” summarises a number of projects and prototypes that are all concerned with using AR methods for maintenance processes. The joint idea of all these projects is to support the technical personnel by supplying additions information for their tasks at hand. Day to day tasks are already supported by mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. The upcoming AR technologies though allow for additional information or instructions to be superimposed directly onto to installation. Using tablets, smartphones or AR glasses, staff can be directed to the according location using arrows. Once they reached their destination, all the relevant cables, switches, armatures or other components are highlighted, and the tasks to be carried out are displayed.

When it comes to identifying the installations or components, there are various methods we can rely on. Using QR codes or barcodes is typically the easiest way. The main advantage with this technology is that it is already used by many organisations today and therefore, the additional overhead needed is minimised. The AR device recognises these codes, accesses the stored information and displays them in a suitable manner. Aside from simple information, complex tasks or instructions may be displayed.

“Object Detection” is a new method for automatically identifying objects. In this case, we use AI methods that are trained for various objects and then later recognise them automatically. The major advantage of this technology is, that it avoids all the problems with regards to the readability of QR codes and barcodes. We are currently using this method in several projects. One of the projects is focused on functional tests of sprinkler systems. Initially the user is guided to the installation using directional arrows. Once he is in the right place, the components to be manipulated such as valves, actuators or buttons are highlighted in the correct order and the instructions are superimposed.

Augmented Reality for sprinkler systems

Another use case is supporting so-called ITIL-processes in data centres. Again, the operator is guided to the correct rack and the equipment to be replaced or the port to be patched is highlighted. Because of this prototype we have been nominated for this year’s German Datacentre Award.

Not only the efficiency of maintenance measures but also the documentation of those is an important aspect in this approach. The digitisation of the entire process means, that it is fully documented. You don’t have to rely on your service provider or operator to correctly document each task. The system itself will automatically store all information about the measure in a central database. This means you will always have access to crucial information such as the time and date of the measure, the tasks carried out and even picture documentation if needed.

A future improvement will be the implementation of the technology provided by our partner FRAMENCE. The introduction of the FRAMENCE hybrid model allows for easier navigation to the installation and increases the amount of information available to the operator significantly. When necessary, the operator can access as-built documentation (even from the past) and  further information about the environment such as pipes or connected installations as well.

If you want to know more about these and other projects, please do get in touch and we are happy to invite you to visit our FUTURE.LAB.