AR, VR over Wireless Networks Gaining Momentum in Industrial Sector
Augmented Reality (AR) is growing in presence in industrial applications such as smart manufacturing and remote operation of industrial machinery. To serve workers that use devices in a wider range of locations or on the move, cellular connectivity is the better option. The 5G network, with extreme throughput, ultra-low latency, and uniform experience, will be the ideal solution for connected AR/VR experiences. ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on transformative technologies, forecasts that almost 10 percent of industrial smart glasses and standalone virtual reality (VR) devices will have a 5G connection by 2026.
“Wearing smart glasses, rather than using AR on handheld screens, empowers the worker to use both hands and look directly at the work that needs doing,” said Marina Lu, senior analyst at ABI Research. “AR will enable shop-floor workers to see a digital twin overlaid on a physical object with assembly or repair instructions according to customized needs. Remote applications that connect field engineers to a remote expert require high-accuracy interaction and low end-to-end latency for time-sensitive applications, and thus continuous connectivity is vital. When users in field service and maintenance are in remote locations where Wi-Fi is nonexistent, devices can leverage 4G and eventually 5G networks to keep these workers connected and safe.”
Connectivity vendors, such as Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia, as well as telcos such as Verizon, SK Telekom, and Orange, view AR and VR as one of the prime use cases for the 5G network. Ericsson has recently used augmented reality troubleshooting (ART) at its own production sites in Tallinn, Estonia, and is expanding its use to other Ericsson sites in China. By using ART, the engineers can solve tricky issues with just-in-time fault finding data and immediate information sharing, which can boost productivity by 50 percent. Xerox Israel has deployed AR in the field to improve first-time fix rates, remote resolution rates, and mean time to repair.
Cellular connectivity could expand the possible working area of AR/VR. Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) can efficiently support simple remote devices that do not communicate frequently while remaining energy efficient. The combination of IoT and AR/VR improves the entire value chain for use in manufacturing. Some manufacturers have already started to adopt LPWA, as shown by Huawei and Toshiba’s NB-IoT solution for smart factory monitoring. Flowserve, a manufacturer and aftermarket service provider of flow control products and services, uses real-time sensors with AR to predict pump failure, show the exact steps for making the fix, and share management analytics.
“Mobility is the key to enhance user AR/VR experiences and industry market penetration, which poses new requirements on operator’s network structure and services, but also create new opportunities because only operators can create value in connecting the supply chain, connecting the factory and the product, and understanding the end customers,” said Eric Abbruzzese, principal analyst at ABI Research. “Ubiquitous connectivity is necessary for users to interact with the surrounding environment and receive on-demand information anytime and anywhere. New business models that can leverage connectivity capabilities and bring value to end users wherever they are operating need to be developed.”