In this article I outline how the convergence of IoT (Internet of Things) and Augmented Reality (AR) empowers businesses to turn their data into a meaningful format that optimizes processes, reduces cost and saves time. We'll look at different types of IoT data before diving into two real-world use cases showing how IoT and AR improve industrial operations in medical device manufacturing and assembly lines.
How do IoT and AR go together?
As the Internet of Things (IoT) rapidly evolves, businesses can collect vast amounts of data with IoT platforms that monitor the performance of industrial machinery. Manufacturers aggregate information about every stage of their production process, for example:
- Status Data: A manufacturing robot is working
- Location Data: The position of a product in the production line
- Automation Data: The temperature as regulated by a sensor
The number of IoT-connected devices increased from 6 billion in 2016 to 11 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach 20 billion by the end of 2020 according to Gartner. While Boston Consulting Group describes this development as the big bang of data, the data alone brings little benefits for business if it is only collected and stored. However, if used in the right way, these large amounts of data can help businesses handle the major challenges of our new Remote Economy. When leveraging their data, industrial enterprises can ensure business continuity, increase operations efficiency and even tackle talent shortage.
This is where Augmented Reality (AR) comes in. AR can turn IoT data into a meaningful format that gives employees relevant information exactly where they need it. The data-based insights help workers operating or maintaining machinery make informed decisions and perform tasks accordingly. This in return reduces error rates and makes processes more efficient while also making the best use of the declining number of skilled workers available. Before we take a closer look at how IoT data and AR can be used within an industrial work environment, let’s clarify: What kind of data are we talking about?
Status Data, Location Data, Automation Data... Why they are all Dynamic Data
There are multiple terms describing IoT data that is continuously changing and updated according to the development of a process or object over time. Dynamic Data, live data and real-time data all reveal information instantly about the current moment in time. They are opposites to Static Data which does not change and only relates to a specific point in time rather than the here and now.
To give an everyday example, the dashboard of a car shows dynamic data as it displays your current speed. As you accelerate, the needle goes up and it goes down immediately when you break, always showing your current speed. On the other hand, the speeding ticket you receive after driving too fast is based on static data. It indicates a single speed from the exact moment you went over the speed limit and the camera took the photo.
In an industrial context many different types of data can fall under the term dynamic data such as:
- Temperature readings
- Capacity indicators
- Rpm readings
- Warning signals
- And much more
Visualizing Dynamic Data in AR: Two industrial use cases
The next question is: How can these different types of dynamic data be leveraged in Augmented Reality? Let’s look at two industrial use cases.
1. Medical device manufacturing & pharmaceutical production
In the production of medical devices or pharmaceutical products it’s crucial for operators to work in a sterile environment. Conditions of the production environment need to be monitored and adjusted immediately as required. The same applies to the equipment used as it needs to be setup correctly and function properly.
In this scenario dynamic data, for example in the form of the room temperature or air filtration data, can be visualized with AR technology in the field of view of the operator working in the environment. Using a mobile device or smart glasses the data collected by an IoT platform is made available to the workforce in a visual format via AR. The temperature and air filtration values are displayed already indicating if those values are appropriate or need adjustment.
The live AR visualization of dynamic data allows the medical operator to:
- Take action immediately: Problems can be addressed as they occur
- Foresee problems before they happen: Major issues can be avoided in advance
- Monitor changes: The impact of an adjustment is visible straight away
2. Assembly line in industrial manufacturing
In assembly lines robots and other automated equipment are programmed to work at maximum efficiency. An error that puts everything on hold can become costly very quickly as a minute of downtime costs up to $22,000 in the automotive industry. IoT platforms connected to an AR solution help avoid downtimes as they make equipment performance data available live to the workforce.
The AR-based display of dynamic data in manufacturing helps workers with:
- Equipment monitoring:
Values are shown at the machine in the manufacturing environment instead of on complex dashboards.
- Diagnosing errors:
Malfunctions are visible immediately and appear where they occur on the machine.
- Performing maintenance and repair tasks:
Servicing equipment or fixing errors is easier with all relevant information in direct view.
IoT and AR go hand in hand
In a nutshell: For industrial businesses IoT and AR are not only two technologies that can improve business operations, their potential is maximized when combined. According to a BCG survey 80% of companies already working with either IoT or AR are convinced that IoT-AR solutions will become the norm in their industry in the next five years.
Dynamic Data is the raw information that only becomes valuable when relevant values are visualized and made interpretable. On the other side AR needs a reliable live data source to provide the workforce with valuable information that enhances their decision making.
Only when used together businesses can really unleash the power of the data, they are collecting to achieve business continuity, make operations more efficient and utilize available talent in the workforce.
Want to learn more about IoT and AR?
Watch the recording of our RE'LEASE Event where our
trusted partner Software AG showed how to visualize IoT data in AR.
*Image courtesy: Microsoft News Center