Don’t tell gamers Pokémon Go is just augmented interactive reality (AiR), the overlaying of real-time information onto a view of the world that uses wearable technology.
That sounds kind of grown-up. But as utilities are finding out, the kid-friendly elements of Pokémon Go might make completing grown-up tasks more efficient.
Working with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and others, Duke Energy has been testing augmented reality with smart glasses – seeing if the technology is a fit for the energy industry. For example, the company is studying whether AiR could be used to locate products in warehouses and help technicians who are restoring power in a neighborhood after a storm.
“As with any technology, we test new methods for doing work,” says Aleksandar Vukojevic, Duke Energy’s technology development manager. “We want to make sure the technology is a benefit to the employee and not a hindrance – or something not wanted.”
Duke Energy has been testing these devices with Atheer, the company promoting AiR applications for businesses, to better understand the technology.
Atheer has looked at remote collaboration, machine-operator training and warehouse inventory management, said Nabil Chehade, head of Atheer’s AiR Suite division. “By applying augmented reality, we are able to optimize field engineering workflows previously not thought possible.”
A large warehouse is one application being tested. Could AiR help employees find, count and retrieve materials quicker? Instead of looking for the latest Pokémon, employees may be able to find materials quicker with technology guiding them along. It may also help with inventory counting and controls.
Often, the devices weren’t designed especially for the energy industry, so Vukojevic determines whether the cost of the new technology actually saves the company money.
We want to make sure the technology is a benefit to the employee and not a hindrance ...
“Our job is to find the bridge that takes the best elements of the technology and provides enhancements to our own work,” he said.
It could also assist in training. Smart glasses would be programmed to take employees step by step through a procedure or view a picture or video to get specific directions to perform a task.
Restoration work is another possibility. Augmented reality could help technicians see what a normal situation looks like in a neighborhood while looking at storm damage in real time. That would help in getting the right parts to the scene quicker and avoid overlooking any items.
Taking that one step further, smart glasses could help technicians allow others to see real-life situations in the field, making troubleshooting a collaborative effort.
“Energy workers see so many different situations in the field,” said Vukojevic. “Smart glasses could encourage remote cooperation – even if the expert is miles away from where the problem is.”
Response and acceptance from Duke Energy employees, Vukojevic said, seems promising.
For more on augmented reality, check out Vukojevic’s recent article.
“Testing and touching the devices first hand is a great way to allow employees to see the value in the technology,” he said. “When their comfort level increases, employees start to see future uses for the technology – many times something we hadn’t thought of before.”