Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is far from a new problem for businesses. However, the issue is more apparent as emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), the evolution of connectivity and smart, connected products fuel unparalleled quantities of data.
Indeed, IDC has claimed that the ‘Global Datasphere’ reached 18 zettabytes in 2018 and will rise to 175 zettabytes - that’s 175 trillion gigabytes - in 2025. To put that in context, downloading 175 zettabytes of information using the average internet speed would take 1.8 billion years, according to IDC’s Data Age 2025 paper.
As a result of this phenomenal data explosion, it is now ever-more difficult to keep pace and businesses need new technologies to support them in their digital transformation efforts.
Overcoming Digital Dilemmas
Digital dilemmas are prevalent throughout our lives. For example, a driver using a GPS has to interpret the directions the gadget provides to understand the route it wants them to take, and failure to do so quickly enough can see them miss their turn. In the business space, we repeatedly see people being reliant on data only to misinterpret it or apply it out of context.
This no longer needs to be the case. Modern smart technologies can help manufacturers to process, filter and understand the information they actually need to accomplish a particular task or process amid the mass of data they are accumulating. For example, augmented reality (AR) can deliver the right information when it’s needed to help factory workers make better, faster decisions.
AR is a set of technologies that superimpose digital data and images onto a physical object. An AR-enabled mobile device can identify a smart connected product (SCP), such as an industrial machine. Through an AR app, the device can connect to the SCP’s Digital Twin in the cloud, stream data and superimpose instructions onto an object for the user to follow.
In practice, this means a reduction in errors, increased efficiency and improved productivity. To return to the example of a driver interacting with a GPS, companies like Continental are using AR to provide dashboard and navigation information in context with head-up displays that enable drivers to maintain focus, reduce errors and drive more safely.
We’re already seeing businesses reap the benefits of this. For example, PwC research finds that 91% of industrial companies are investing in digital factories. While IDC estimated that 60 percent of the 2,000 largest manufacturers will rely on digital platforms as the foundation of their industrial ecosystems, in addition to 40 percent of all technology spending going towards digital transformation through 2019.
However, despite the clear potential of the technology, many businesses continue to be held back from realising it by a number of challenges.
Three Challenges Holding Manufacturers Back
Challenge #1: Wearable maturity
Consuming, understanding and putting into action all the data created by the IoT can be a major struggle for most businesses. AR can help by advising users of the action they should take, but major hurdles still remain such as the maturity and practicality of wearables.
This situation mirrors that of mobile broadband which was struggling to catch on until the launch of the iPhone. Apple’s product changed the game in terms of creating an acceptable level of user experience. Once the experience of wearable technology comes to an acceptable standard it’s likely we will see a sharp rise in the usage of AR.
Challenge #2: The Future is Smart
While the majority of AR experiences are still currently delivered through mobile devices, the technology’s future is in smart glasses. Like wearables, the maturity of this technology is not yet fully up to factory standards but is rapidly improving. And its mainstream success will be reliant on major players driving it. For example, Apple is working with third-party organisations to create AR glasses that it hopes to unveil in 2020, while Facebook has partnered with Luxottica to create smart Ray-Bans that could be available to consumers as early as 2023.
Challenge #3: Instilling a Systemic Approach
Manufacturers often have the technology they need to solve a singular use case. The challenge they have is installing a systemic approach that won’t disrupt their working processes and is transparent enough to deliver relevant information to the right people at the right time.
Time to Get Onboard AR Innovation
Smart wearable technology may not quite be ready for widespread usage but it’s only a matter of time before these AR-powered innovations are commonplace. And when they are, they will drive new levels of workforce agility and productivity for manufacturing firms.
According to a market study from IDG, about 75% of the German enterprises are already engaged in AR & VR projects or planning to engage short-term.
The industry is working on making it easy to build augmented reality applications, with a set of low-coding tools, we help lower the barriers to getting onboard AR innovation – and leverage a systematic and scalable platform approach from the start.
The PTC and Rockwell Automation partnership accelerates business’ growth goals and our combined expertise, resources, technology and go-to-market initiatives can help transform physical operations with digital technology. The partnership offers increased productivity, heightened plant efficiency, reduced operational risk and better system interoperability that will help manufacturers thrive in the modern digital world.