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Augmented Automation

Data Glasses Bring Augmented Reality into Automation

| Editor: Janina Seit

Faster service, higher availability and lower costs thanks to the intelligent combination of web portal and Smart Glasses: The new solution "Augmented Automation" connects experts from machine and plant manufacturers with their colleagues from service and maintenance. This is how the Internet of Things becomes a part of a plant.

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With Augmented Automation, the speed and quality of service can be improved considerably, costs can be reduced, and the availability of systems can be increased.
( Source: Pixabay / CC0 )

Four eyes see more than two. Even over a distance of a thousand kilometers? This is exactly what the concept of "Augmented Automation" promises, which focuses on data spectacles and Smart Glasses.

However, Augmented Automation is not just a hardware solution: Essert's new IoT development (distributed by the industrial service provider Alexander Bürkle) consists of data glasses and the associated IT systems and applications. In practice, a service technician in a plant can authenticate himself with the data glasses and communicate via a central portal via audio and video connection with a specialist in the company who knows the individual plant configuration. He or she sees and hears what the colleague on site does and can send circuit diagrams or other information to the glasses to support him or her.

Navigating through the system with data glasses: Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality are designed to support maintenance.
Navigating through the system with data glasses: Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality are designed to support maintenance.
( Source: Bürkle )

Automation with Shared Responsibilities

Smart Glasses from Vuzix are currently being used for this purpose. The developers claim that it is compatible with other hardware. The heart of the solution is already virtual: the web-based "Augmented Portal" is hosted centrally so that the user does not have to manage a server.

The entire communication is running via the portal, where the Smart Glasses and all connections are configured and access rights are managed. The hierarchy distinguishes the roles of administrator, supporter and operator. The procedure is therefore based on the usual standards, which means that there is only little training effort.

How do Augmented Applications Work?

Depending on the requirements, different solutions, called "Augmented Applications", are available. The example described above refers to the "Augmented Support" application: The on-site user uses the remote support provided by the live expert via Smart Glasses. Other applications include, for example, the communication of Smart Devices with plant or machine control systems or the automated generation of training and maintenance videos.

All available applications for the respective hardware can be activated as required and modularized via the portal, allowing for Smart Glasses to be tailored to a specific application and can be managed easily in day-to-day work. Newly developed applications appear automatically in the Augmented Portal and can be activated at any time.

Connection to the Internet for Secure Remote Maintenance

In the field, the Smart Glasses communicate via Wi-Fi. The connection to the Augmented Portal can be implemented in various ways: via the customer's existing Wi-Fi network, via a mobile hotspot and mobile radio or similar technologies.

The "Smart Server Unit" extends the possibilities of augmented automation by accessing machine data. The servers establish the interface between the Augmented Portal and the field devices via secure VPN tunnels. Up to four system controllers can be connected to the Smart Server Unit installed in the control cabinet via a LAN network as a standard. Communication with the Augmented Portal is either established via the WAN port or via the mobile phone network. The unit also serves as an access point for the Smart Glasses or, if desired, for the Smart Tablet.

IoT Increases the Availability of a Plant

With Augmented Automation, the speed and quality of service can be improved considerably, costs can be reduced, and the availability of systems can be increased. IT and automation specialists are responsible for implementing this solution. The service ranges from configuring the application in-house as well as on site (e.g. system, machine) to setting up portal functionality and functional tests of the installation.

This article was first published by Process.

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