AR’s Capabilities A Game Changer For Enterprise Mobility

Contributor: Jason Koestenblatt
Posted: 01/23/2018
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AR Headset

The combination of enterprise mobility and innovative technologies that can distinctly transform workflows and processes is growing, and one such instance can soon change the way employees see their jobs – literally.

While in existence for years, augmented reality’s notable intersection with enterprise mobility recently went mainstream on the consumer-facing side when the release of Pokemon Go blew up in 2016. For many who use mobile devices daily, that was the first true look at augmented reality.

But enterprise workers in certain industries know all about augmented reality and how it’s made astronomical differences in the scope of time it takes to complete a project, even lessening the number of mistakes made on the first go.

For Brian Laughlin, IT Architect for Mobile Devices in the Commercial Aviation Services section of Boeing, AR has been an instrumental tool in delivering speed and safety to the mechanics under his watch.

Laughlin, who’s been with Boeing since 1996, saw a need for using wearables in his workers’ endeavors, who were repairing equipment on airplanes.

“There was this tent pole structure of wasted time,” Laughlin told Enterprise Mobility Exchange. “Mechanics would spend 10 minutes to two hours running around to get proper papers and other necessary information before they could even begin the work. There were a lot of ingredients needed before ‘baking the cake.’”

The need for specifications in this particular workflow, he said, is paramount.

“If I’m a doctor and I screw up, one person gets hurt,” Laughlin explained. “If I’m a (plane) engineer and I screw up, a lot of people get hurt.”

That’s when Laughlin began diving into the wearable device use territory. After several iterations along the way as the hardware evolved, from computing devices harnessed to workers’ upper torsos to Google Glass, Laughlin’s crew is now equipped with Microsoft’s HoloLens. But it’s what mechanics and engineers can do with that equipment that changes the game.

“Humans are limited in what we can do physically and biologically,” Laughlin said. “This is the fundamental issue why AR matters. We’re crap at memorization, and there are a lot of things that impinge on our mental bandwidth. AR is giving us bionic, or Superman-type capabilities.”

For Boeing and Laughlin’s team, mechanics and engineers are able to work on building equipment and making repairs with colleagues in different locations through the use of the AR-enhanced HoloLens. For instance, when dressed with the headset, a worker can spatially register his or her whereabouts in accordance to the physical location of the plane, and with a three-dimensional overlay locate the piece of equipment that needs to be altered or repaired with exact specifications mapped out in the HoloLens, using a field of points, while still viewing the physical hardware in front of them. From there, the mechanic can work in tandem in real time with a colleague who is seeing the same equipment from his or her device but is in a different location.

Laughlin said his team, since using the AR-capable wearables, has seen a 30% decrease in tact time – the overall time it takes to complete a singular process – and a 90% increase in first-pass time, essentially the baseline for exact quality on a project during the first iteration.

As previously reported by Enterprise Mobility Exchange, the AR and virtual reality markets are realizing exponential growth, with predictions showing a 92.5% CAGR between 2016 and 2024, and a market value of $547.21 billion by the end of the forecast.

What’s driving that market, as Laughlin has seen in the last decade, is the hardware innovation and the reduced cost of equipment as the technology expands.

“Safety and quality drives my need for having accurate, timely information,” Laughlin said. “(With AR) We’re creating bionic people to help us be more effective at what we do.”

Jason Koestenblatt
Contributor: Jason Koestenblatt