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LEAD Innovation Blog

Read our latest articles on innovation management and innovation in a wide range of industries.

Date: 19-Aug-2019
Posted by: Franz Emprechtinger

How Augmented Reality revolutionizes service and repairs


As with Pokémon GO, the enrichment of real images with virtual information is not only extremely fun. Augmented Reality (AR) opens doors to completely new possibilities in many areas. Read in this blog post, how Augmented Reality can make the service of plants and machines more efficient, easier and cheaper.

Anyone who has ever set up a piece of furniture by the Swedish furniture dealer IKEA knows how important it is to have the right information in your field of vision at the right time. Because it is a great test for the nerves to hold two components together and not have a hand free to open the right page in the assembly instructions and to understand it. Augmented reality could solve exactly this problem: Because by means of this technology the reality can be enriched with further information, evenly to the respective context suitable information. Good news for all IKEA customers: The group is already working on augmented reality. However, the furniture giant has so far only supported its customers in planning their furnishings. The app, which is intended to help with assembly, is already in the works, but not quite finished yet. But when the "AR-Build Assist" is ready, it will undoubtedly be a great help. Since the application runs on the smartphone, the user needs two hands to operate it. And that's exactly what he could really use better when assembling the furniture.

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AR has already arrived in industry

In industry, where AR is already used in some areas, this problem has already been solved. This is mainly where data glasses are used, which can be controlled by gestures and allow the user's hands to play freely, so to speak. One area in which AR has already found its way into everyday working life is the service and maintenance of systems and machines in the broadest sense. A reference example from the elevator company Thyssenkrupp, which uses Microsoft's HoloLens technology for elevator service, shows how the new technology can be used: 


Even before the service technician arrives at the elevator, he can project a picture of the model in question onto his desk using data glasses. This means that the expert is much better prepared than before when he arrives at the scene of action. Once there, he can use the data glasses to check the history of the system and has access to all technical information. The data goggles can also be used to find the defective component. If the service technician needs assistance from an expert, he can request it via a voice command. The colleague called in then sees exactly what the service technician can see on site via the built-in camera of the data goggles and can thus provide the best possible support. To date, the service employees have worked on their laptops to read out the defective system and retrieve the relevant information. The data goggles now keep the user's hands free for the actual work. It is controlled by the line of vision, the voice and, if necessary, gestures of the user. As practical tests by Thyssenkrupp have shown, the technology reduces service time to a quarter. A look at the figures shows how much AR alone can change this area: The worldwide elevator service business has an annual volume of around 40 billion euros. This sector will continue to grow strongly in the future as a result of progressive urbanization. Such a strong increase in productivity as a result of AR would probably turn this sector upside down completely.


Bosch offers software platform for development of AR apps

Bosch is also working on the use of Augmented Reality applications - for example in everyday car repair shops. As a field study has shown, the use of AR even in the servicing of common vehicles leads to a time saving of 15 percent per operation. Using AR, the mechanic sees hidden components in the vehicle and can call up work instructions and the special tools required. Defective parts are marked in color and their order numbers are displayed. All this speeds up and makes vehicle maintenance more precise, thus reducing costs for companies and customers. Bosch uses AR not only for service, but also for marketing, training, and the production of complex products. The company has also developed a software platform on which augmented reality applications can be implemented comparatively quickly and easily.


AR offers these 4 advantages for maintenance and service

As these two and many other application examples show, the use of AR for maintenance and service opens up the following possibilities:

1) The user is guided through the entire process with a simple step-by-step guide. In the event of deviations, the system can draw the user's attention to them.

2) For more complex systems, the user can consult an external specialist. The AR technology makes it possible for the user to see exactly the same picture that the technician sees on site.

3) AR technology also makes visible those parts of a plant or machine that remain hidden from the human eye. AR makes it possible to see where those components are located that could be a source of error. Dismantling work, only to be able to check hidden components, is therefore no longer necessary.

4) Because AR simplifies the overall performance of service and maintenance work, certain areas can also be outsourced to the customer himself. In case of problems, the customer can then call in the service technicians of the supplier "remotely". This not only reduces the maintenance effort, but also the downtimes of plants and machines.


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The possibilities of AR therefore sound quite promising. At present, however, there are still a few hurdles to overcome that are hampering the further spread of AR in industry:

- The range of data glasses on offer is still quite manageable overall and the individual devices are therefore still comparatively expensive. The only one that is actually suitable for professional use and is already widely accepted is the Hololens from Microsoft.

- So that the data can also be displayed visually by the AR glasses, they must be prepared accordingly.

- To date, AR data glasses are still too heavy and uncomfortable to be worn for an entire working day. The display quality is also still relatively low.


Conclusion: How Augmented Reality revolutionizes service and repairs

The technology makes it possible to have exactly the information in view that is needed to drive a process forward. This is particularly valuable in the service and maintenance area because the technician can concentrate on the essentials and also has his hands free to carry out the steps. The user of AR applications does not have to scroll through printed or digital documentation to find the information he needs. They don't have to pick up the phone or mobile phone to ask an expert for advice. And he always has the entire system in the picture and thus also components that he would normally only be able to see after dismantling other parts. The typical teething troubles that technology still suffers from today will probably soon be overcome. Whether and when IKEA will add AR glasses to its do-it-yourself furniture in addition to the hexagon socket is still uncertain. What is certain is that such a system would make assembly faster and, above all, less stressful for the nerves.

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Franz Emprechtinger

Born in Ried im Innkreis. As former Head of Innovation, he was responsible for the entire project management and specializes in the areas of fuzzy front end and business model innovation.

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