CEO on how mixed reality is becoming a constant companion

By Yan Simard, CEO at Kognitiv Spark
Yan Simard, CEO at Kognitiv Spark, explains how mixed reality is now providing strategic options which allow companies to scale their operations

Mixed reality (MR) has already been widely adopted within the B2C sector, in particular through the use of digital filters that help customers to select everything from shoes to furniture.

But this benefit of helping customers to select items is just one small element of MR, and industrial and enterprise use cases extend beyond this narrow approach. This is particularly due to the additional work-place functionality that MR delivers as opposed to virtual reality (VR). While MR increases mobility and enhances natural surroundings, VR, for all its other benefits, tends to which reduces mobility by substituting its own reality.

But in today’s world, where technology is evolving so quickly, there is a firehose of new innovations all demanding our attention. It is worth taking a breath and exploring how MR has already matured. And the most important aspect to consider is that MR no longer represents a tactical solution for isolated use cases, it is now providing strategic options for companies to scale operations. It provides a clear example of how innovation in technology can deliver tangible benefits in standard working practices.

From tactical to strategic use

With agility and flexibility key to being able to deliver more services to clients, whether working to a break and fix model, or extending to servitisation, removing downtime is essential to maintain margins and hit service level agreements.

MR finds its most obvious use case as a primary tool for conducting remote field work. Companies that initially trial MR typically explore its application for when engineers are prevented from attending site, either through bad weather or other unpredictable events.

Within this context, a communication grid is created between the subject matter expert (SME) and a less experienced worker. The SME could be at home or the global headquarters on a different continent. When the operations specialist uses MR, the engineer can supervise in real-time the work being carried out – all the while maintaining a dialogue and adding 3D or 2D guidance on top of it. A 2D use case may include a PDF that can help the worker. The SME can drag and drop that image into the worker’s field of vision on the headset, and it appears as a 3D hologram.

But after adopting this tactical approach to field engineering using MR and finding that it works, companies have now begun adopting additional methods of working with MR that are more strategic and actually open new areas for growth.

To look at the fundamentals of this, if the subject of economics is fundamentally about managing and optimizing the usage of scare resources to maximise value creation, then it’s critical to keep the SME as active as possible because, in our case, the SME is the scare resource.

It takes significant time and cost to develop the skills of an SME, whether that is in the field of machine engineering, complex electrical installation, or any other highly technical field. One of the easiest ways to waste money in an enterprise is to send a scare resource on a long trip by car or aeroplane. This downtime produces no value whatsoever; it means clients are waiting, and that machines or equipment lay idle.

By extension, the lack of SMEs within an organization stifles its ability to grow or offer services outside of its immediate geographical area. This is particularly acute for companies that produce transport solutions, such as cars or boats, which can be located anywhere in the world. Without having a global footprint, servicing of mobile equipment becomes logistical impossibility that is simply handed off to whoever is closest, with the hope that they can provide a fix. The use of MR immediately solves this problem, allowing engineers who have experience working on the same class of vehicle, but with different specifications and nuances, to service more complex or proprietary equipment, with guidance from a SME located remotely. Importantly, this is no longer a ‘break the glass’ solution, MR has now become embedded in remote servicing business models.

The same is true for fixed plant machinery too. MR allows smaller organisations to grow their operations by extending the reach of their servicing operations. Utilising a mixed digital reality, companies find that they can extend beyond their physical boundaries determined by their immediate manufacturing plant or established service centres.

The problem that companies are now solving, is not finding a stop-gap measure to remediate a one-off case, but extending their core skillset, potentially globally, to perform complex troubleshooting or intricate maintenance. Mixed reality helps bridge that gap and empower workers to deal with situations more autonomously, faster, and better. The result is that companies can now sell further afield and manage their servicing contracts and schedules without establishing operations globally. This is a subtle but important leap forward in thinking, when considering the original use case.

Agility through advances in the MR ecosystem 

The technology of MR headsets has made major advances in recent years, meaning better head-tracking cameras with more accurate depth camera to sense the environment and perform articulated hand tracking. But MR is a technology that cannot have been perfected in isolation. To generate holographical models that can assist people in their working roles, there has been a necessary parallel expansion in design and 3D scanning software and hardware.

Likewise, the deployment of fast and low-cost wireless communications globally is another factor. Untethered from the corporate Wi-Fi, today’s MR connections are fast and dependable, wherever they are used.

MR is proving its value within organisations through moving from tactical to strategic use, enabling the development of new business models to develop in tandem with its adoption. While there is a learning curve, choosing an appropriate partner with a solid onboarding process, software support and troubleshooting capacity and which offers a full suite of training is the starting point to explore how MR can impact today’s working practices and even open opportunities for new income streams.

Yan Simard is the CEO of Kognitiv Spark


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