Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality over Wireless Networks Gaining Momentum in Industrial Sector

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2Q 2018 | IN-5151

Augmented Reality (AR) is growing in presence in industrial applications like smart manufacturing. Ericsson has recently used AR for troubleshooting at its own production sites in Tallinn, Estonia, and is expanding its use to other Ericsson sites like China. By using augmented reality troubleshooting (ART), the engineers can solve tricky issues with just-in-time fault-finding data and immediate information sharing, which can boost productivity by 50%. All of this requires a reliable, low-latency, high-bandwidth connection for sustained and high-fidelity AR experience.

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Manufacturers Trialing 5G-Enabled AR Devices 

NEWS


Augmented Reality (AR) is growing in presence in industrial applications like smart manufacturing. Ericsson has recently used AR for troubleshooting at its own production sites in Tallinn, Estonia, and is expanding its use to other Ericsson sites like China. By using Augmented Reality Troubleshooting (ART), the engineers can solve tricky issues with just-in-time fault-finding data and immediate information sharing, which can boost productivity by 50%. All of this requires a reliable, low-latency, high-bandwidth connection for sustained and high-fidelity AR experience.

The 5G network, with extreme throughput, ultra-low latency, and uniform experience, will be the ideal solution for connected AR/VR experiences when streaming live data, pictures, video or telepresence. Connectivity vendors, such as Qualcomm, Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia, as well as telcos such as Verizon, SK Telekom, and Orange, view AR and VR as one of the prime use cases for the 5G network. ABI Research forecasts that around 10% of industrial smartglasses and standalone VR devices will have a 5G connection by 2026.

Different Connectivity Requirements for Different Use Scenarios

IMPACT


Wearing smartglasses, rather than using AR on handheld screens, empowers the worker to use both hands and look directly at the work that needs doing. The glasses can also use computer vision for quality control, e.g., to notify an employee or manager of Quality Assurance (QA) issues at the time and place they occur. AR will enable shop-floor workers to see a digital twin overlaid on a physical object with assembly or repair instructions according to customized needs. In order to serve workers that use devices in a wider range of locations or on the move, cellular connectivity is the better option. Companies like Xerox Israel have deployed AR in the field to improve the performance in the areas of first time fix rates, remote resolution rates, and mean time to repair.  It is expected that cellular connectivity could expand the possible working area of AR. As more use cases are introduced to AR/VR, network bandwidth and latency of the network becomes especially important for more immersive real-time experiences that will drive adoption in other markets.

For instance, remote applications that connect field engineers to a remote expert require high-accuracy interaction and low end-to-end latency. The lower the latency required by the application, the higher the required bit rate. 4G networks carry latencies in the tens of milliseconds, while 5G network latencies near the edge are expected to be in the range of 1 ms to 4 ms, making it the best option to serve consumers.

5G will enable previously impossible applications by making use of remote processing power, not just in the cloud, but at the edge of the network. Mobile Edge computing (MEC) capabilities in 5G allows localized caching, storage, and processing, enabling low latency and better user experience. Service providers that offer 5G network will have the ability to perform network slicing, creating a dedicated network slice for AR and VR. This effectively guarantees the performance of AR and VR services to meet the required KPIs and QoS for the intended use case.

Even with all its benefits, 5G is not a perfect solution for every device or use case. Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWAN) can efficiently support simple devices that do not communicate frequently while remaining ultra-energy efficient. Wires and cables present problems for mobile assets and do not empower the same dynamic IoT applications as wireless technologies. With LPWA technologies, all of these machines are embedded with sensors to pull and analyze data; AR and VR can be integrated by visualizing this information to users. The combination of the IoT and AR/VR improves the entire value chain for use in manufacturing. Some manufacturers have already started to adopt LPWA, as shown by Huawei and Toshiba’s NB-IoT solution for smart factory monitoring. Flowserve, a manufacturer and aftermarket service provider of flow control products and services, uses real-time sensors with AR to predict pump failure, show the exact steps for making the fix, and share management analytics.

Go Beyond the Connection for the Devices 

RECOMMENDATIONS


Only stable, high-bandwidth, low-latency, and uniform network services can provide assurance for good interactive and immersive AR/VR experiences. This places new requirements on operators’ network infrastructure and services, but also creates new opportunities because only operators have the capabilities to guarantee these factors. They can add value in connecting the supply chain, connecting the factory and the end product, and understanding the end customer targeted by the manufactures. For example, bundled services can be offered by telcos with heavily subsidized HMDs, akin to the existing business models for smartphones.

Chipset providers and device OEMs should be prepared to integrate 5G chipsets into future VR and AR HMDs, but with the understanding that not all devices or use cases will require it. Use of cloud streaming VR and AR will allow HMDs to become lighter and cheaper because content will be hosted fully in the cloud. This will lead to portable, lightweight, and potentially waterproof HMDs, suitable for outdoor usage. The ubiquitous connectivity is necessary for users to interact with the surrounding environment and receive on-demand information anytime and anywhere.

New business models that can leverage the connectivity capabilities and bring value to end users need to be developed. While end users are already benefiting from the content and information provided by VR and AR applications, more insights could be generated via VR and AR devices to study and analyze patterns in user behaviors, movements, interactions, communications, etc., which can benefit other verticals such as education, healthcare, smart homes, and industrial manufacturing.

For more information, please read the ABI Research report Augmented and Virtual Reality Device Connectivity Trends and Forecast (AN-2806).

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