The convergence of cyber, digital, and virtual worlds with the physical world is one of the great promises of Industry 4.0, and it is driving the increased focus on cyber-physical systems. Global spending in augmented reality is poised to double every year through 2021, according to an IDC study. Process manufacturing and discrete manufacturing will supersede consumer services spending in a Virtual or Augmented Reality (VR/AR) by 2021.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic among IT and business leaders alike. Augmented Reality is acquiring a new dimension with the IoT’s ability to connect and utilize digital information from physical devices. Using specialized hardware and software, Augmented Reality overlays 3D digital content seamlessly onto the real world. But it is no longer restricted to the media and entertainment and gaming industries. Through its unique user experience and digital twin, Augmented Reality is enabling enterprises to modernize the entire gamut of business functions from R&D, and customer and employee engagement to manufacturing, production and field services.
The deepening relationship between AR and IoT
IoT acts as a bridge between physical assets and digital infrastructure, while AR brings digital to life by interacting with the physical environment in real time. Let’s take the example of workers and engineers accessing real time IoT data on the shop floor, where it adds the most value. Augmented Reality devices (handheld or head-mounted) are aware of the spatial configuration of the environment of the worker, and can therefore sense what the worker is looking at to intuitively display only the data needed for the operation at hand. These applications of Augmented Reality and IoT can be extrapolated to managing maintenance in remote locations, in conditions of low visibility and high temperature, and other hazardous conditions. Indeed, the list of possibilities is endless.
A versatile combination that benefits all industry verticals
IoT has already gained phenomenal traction among businesses. According to a Software.org report, adding the AR dimension to IoT expands its potential. For instance, in healthcare, it can enable surgeons to perform complicated procedures better by rendering accurate 3D reconstructions of the body part they are operating on while being connected in real time to devices that relay vital stats and information. In retail, AR can bridge the gap between online and offline, providing the customer with the best of both worlds. For example, IKEA is already harnessing the power of AR by helping customers visualize how their furniture will look in their house and how those pieces can be customized to fit the desired decor.
From cars to mobile phones, modern manufacturing requires putting together hundreds of big and small components in a precise and predetermined order. Having a 3D blueprint overlaid onto the actual process provides easier access and step-by-step instructions, while a smart, connected supply chain ensures that parts are always stocked and ready for use.
Strong business benefits of being connected
The IoT-AR blend offers a range of business benefits, such as:
Augmentation and standardization: AR encompasses a range of systems and technologies that deliver real-time, hands-on guidance to ensure tasks are completed safely, correctly, and efficiently.
One of the most important features that make this kind of standardization possible is the ‘no faults forward’ functionality that needs to be integrated into the system. This ensures that the steps are completed in the correct sequence before allowing the user to move on to the next phase of the process. This virtually eliminates most sources of human error and ensures that the right parts, processes and sequences are always followed.
Customization and efficiency: Much of the power and utility of AR would be wasted if these systems were not flexible enough to be used in a range of different applications and processes. AR visualizations can be seamlessly adopted for multiple functions and in diverse conditions. With its ease of use and intuitive output, AR contributes to enhanced employee productivity and better problem-solving capabilities.
Connected enterprise is becoming the new business reality. Not only does this model provide an enhanced customer experience, it also supplements innovation that transforms the customer interaction model. It provides personalized, contextual services that help enhance brand value. The convergence of AR and IoT transforms conventional processes to improve response time, leading to reduced operational costs. Most importantly, it is empowering businesses to perform better, through opening new channels of revenue, and making informed decisions with more insightful data.
The convergence of IoT and Augmented Reality can:
- Bridge the gap between physical assets and digital infrastructure.
- Help maintain machines in remote locations, low visibility, high temperature, and other hazardous conditions.
- Benefit businesses across verticals, especially manufacturing, healthcare, and retail.
- Help launch new revenue streams, use insightful data to make informed decisions, and generally perform better.