From the editor’s desk: Wearable inspection tools not just fashionable accessories

August 2019 News

The quickening consumer demand for wearable technology looks like it’s about to spill over into the industrial sector. Driven by established hardware – Google Glass for example – wearable devices present an opportunity for more efficient, hands-free work, particularly when integrated with technologies like augmented reality. Ranging from smart glasses to wearable sensors, one of the emerging areas of interest is in inspection and maintenance related applications.

Whether it is scheduled inspection of an asset, repair of a breakdown, or an important safety check, enterprise wearables provide the ability to connect plant workers with remotely located equipment experts, either directly, or through work instructions and other augmented content.

When it comes to the inspection of a complex industrial asset, access to specialised knowledge can be invaluable – particularly in the case of plant workers who have not yet accumulated the wisdom of twenty years’ experience. This is where pairing a wearable device with digital work instructions can empower employees to carry out inspections faster and capture asset data more accurately. For example, a field worker armed with a pair of smart glasses loaded with work instruction software can, through the asset ID, view all relevant information, record data, and generate a full digital report to add to the organisational knowledge base.

Using this approach, technicians can perform tasks hands-free while talking and viewing feedback from remote experts. With built-in augmented reality, the experts can annotate on top of the live visuals, or send snips from relevant instruction manuals to enhance the performance of workers in the field.

Canadian-based Librestream is a company dedicated to empowering workers through technologies that help them inspect and maintain assets anywhere in the world. In conjunction with ecom, a brand of the Pepperl+Fuchs group, the pair recently announced a development aimed to ease the difficulties associated with safety inspections in zoned hazardous locations.

Using Librestream’s Onsight Cube-Ex wearable camera with ecom’s intrinsically safe smartphone, workers are able to view video data or capture and send images. Strapped to a hardhat, the camera provides the flexibility for hands-free inspections or it can be mounted near equipment to enable remote viewing. During a live session, remote experts can control the system’s light, zoom, and camera modes to get a better view of any problem areas. The functionality provides workers a completely hands-free inspection experience with live audio feedback and the ability to view visual input on the connected mobile device.

This is a great example of how the technologies of the IIoT can be used to connect people to things to create new tools that allow workers to perform tasks more efficiently and with higher levels of personal safety. Quite apart from that it is cool. Every stylish maintenance worker is surely going to want one of these in the not too distant future. Nick Denbow has more in ‘Ex-rated site inspection video camera transmits remotely’.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control


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