The Internet of Things (IoT) is often equated with beneficial yet relatively simple solutions—the IoT is still in a relative state of infancy, and so too is the complexity of available solutions. Solutions such as coordinating garbage collection routing based on the fill status of containers, efficiently managing fleets using position and vehicle sensor data, and optimizing equipment usage and wear and tear all make business sense, but perhaps aren’t as exciting as what we might dream the future should hold for us.
New Technologies: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Up to this point, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are technologies that have generally been associated with video games. In both cases, a smartphone, headset or other device is used to enhance what you see. With Augmented Reality you are able to overlay new visual information within a user’s existing visual environment (Pokemon Go! is a prime example of this). With Virtual Reality there is no real visual environment—all visual cues are created for the user (flight simulators are an example of this).
Considered separately, the IoT and AR/VR are two of the most exciting and fast paced industries, so maybe it’s not a surprise that they have begun to overlap.
A number of big mainstream names are leading the way in these markets, with AR/VR enablers including Facebook (Oculus), Google and Microsoft. Some IoT providers and equipment manufacturers (especially in the heavy equipment sector, such as Caterpillar and Komatsu) have been exploring how to optimize business processes with the convergence of IoT and AR/VR.
Here are 5 of the most interesting equipment applications where IoT intersects with augmented and/or virtual reality:
1. Maintenance (AR): Caterpillar is providing visual instructional steps for diagnosing heavy equipment failures, highlighting problematic components and subsequently displaying repair actions.
2. Training (AR/VR): Safety experts at the University of New South Wales have created a system for providing training to workers and customers on products through a headset instead of a manual.
3. Sales Demonstration (VR): Santa Clara-based EchelonVR has launched an Android application capable of providing a virtual walk-through of heavy equipment that is difficult to transport.
4. Remote Command (AR/VR): Rolls-Royce envisions being able to provide visual cues and environments for remote control and command of drone ships and planes.
5. Product Design (VR): SGI Japan, Ltd. Supplied Komatsu with a virtual reality system that provides a complete virtual view of an assembled component, with the ability to evaluate it before it is produced.
The key to successfully merging IoT with augmented and virtual reality technologies will be the ability to integrate real-time IoT data within the AR/VR environments, enabling a user experience that reflects a dynamic real life system. For example, a reader attached to an engine’s diagnostic port can indicate (in real time) the correct throttling action that should be taken in order to minimize equipment stress. Similarly, a quick visual scan of a refrigerated storage area can indicate which region needs remedial action in order to mitigate a product compromising temperature drop.
While some of these AR/VR ideas may seem like futuristic concepts out of the movies they are, in reality, probably not that far off from becoming mainstream.
To learn more about the future of IoT and wireless innovation, join ORBCOMM at CTIA Super Mobility Week—North America’s largest forum for mobile innovation taking place from Sep. 7 – 9 in Las Vegas. Visit ORBCOMM booth 4837 and schedule a meeting with us to see how our broad set of leading industrial IoT capabilities enables solutions that deliver total asset visibility, remote control and analytic insight.