Augmented Reality Goes To Work

Virtual and Augmented Reality are the hot new technology in Silicon Valley. We've all seen the demos of people wearing oversized googles on their head 'flying' through games and video simulations.

But what often gets overlooked is that enterprise and industrial are going to be a large part of this market. In fact, enterprise Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality will be about as large as AR in film and TV and augmented reality will be much bigger than complete virtual reality.

Why? A 3D picture is worth a thousand words, cubed. Think if you could take the data from internal engine sensors to give engineers and technicians an accurate image of what's happening inside a cylinder while it's running. Or if you could visualize the inside of a cargo hold of a tanker during an emergency. 

At our EMEA Users Conference, we showed off a preview of what the future might look like in an augmented demonstration of a virtual pump with Flowserve, National Instruments and PTC Thingworx. The technology gives an exploded view of the pump to provide a technician a guide to getting to the source of the problem.

In the picture below, the augmented reality technology brings up the hologram-like figures showing pressure and suction. The pump is real, but the numbers are floating in air. With a mouseclick, CAD data is materialized. Check out the video.

Flowserve 3

For over 35 years, OSIsoft customers have used the PI system on top of their automation systems to improve operational efficiency and monitor the health of their assets. Now industrial internet of things (IIoT) technologies are enabling more advanced sensing and measurement platforms. By combining multiple layers of data ingestion with the application enablement IIoT platform from PTC Thingworx, we can now bring a more complete offering to our industrial equipment customers like Flowserve and Caterpillar to deliver services and solutions to our traditional operational PI customers.

The PTC ThingWorx IIoT platform also brings some advanced analytics for anomaly detection, a utilities resource for device management and the Vuforia augmented reality capability to bring the physical and digital worlds together for maintenance and service persons. We are currently scoping a prototype bi-directional integrator between PI and the ThingWorx IIoT platform that we will vet with some of our preview customers to flush out the value use cases.

As the equipment manufactures exchange information with asset owners as a connected service, this brings us closer to Pat's vision for communities collaborating across the value chain. Rather than describing these broad abstract concepts and drowning in pontification, check out the Flowserve pump demonstration from the Berlin UC to see a physical example.

Over the next few years, we'll see successful applications of VR/AR along with a good collection of duds. It's hard to predict what's going to succeed on the shop floor. But I'm convinced this will be a big market. Drop me a line if you have questions, or ideas where you think the market might be going. The ecosystem for this is just beginning.