Augmented reality (AR) and the internet of things (IoT) — in principle, these two hot technologies are a great match, with data streaming from IoT-connected machines to be used by AR-wielding engineers on the factory floor.
My latest report, “Combine Augmented And Mixed Reality With IoT To Deliver Insight At The Point Of Need,” began with that premise, but I quickly discovered that the real picture was (unsurprisingly) rather more complicated.
For Cognite’s customers operating oil platforms in Europe’s North Sea, the combination of AR and IoT is a small piece of a bigger solution that must encompass other buzzy technology concepts such as digital twin, machine learning, and more. But the benefits are real, with technicians on Aker BP’s Ivar Aasen platform reducing the time spent on routine equipment inspection by 50%.
This recognition that the AR/IoT combination really only starts to deliver value once a lot of other things have been done runs through the report, where I describe this combination as one of the final pieces in a big jigsaw puzzle: If you haven’t laid the groundwork, your fancy AR/IoT project may look great, but it will probably deliver very little sustainable value.
Early AR and virtual reality (VR) successes in areas like training and remote assistance are effectively self-contained: Walmart can deploy 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to stores across North America, and Italpresse Gauss can provide remote assistance to field service engineers, without either organization needing to dramatically alter existing workflows. But to truly realize value from the integration of AR with industrial connected assets, workflows, processes, people, and technology may all need to change. To achieve success in this more complex area, companies must first:
- Bridge the divide between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) teams and processes, where too many digital business ambitions disappear without a trace.
- Connect the things, to get data from both new (greenfield) industrial assets and the far larger installed base of older (brownfield) assets.
- Make sure you can reliably access all of the data you need, from design diagrams and bills of materials to service histories and real-time operational data streams.
- Implement digital twin, to pull all the pieces together.
Then, and only then, might it make sense to take the extra step and to expose this content to users in AR.