From creative advertising campaigns to innovative therapy treatments to immersive educational experiences, there are all kinds of applications for Augmented Reality technology.
Many of the examples that spring to mind (video games, sightseeing, Snapchat filters) are consumer-oriented, but there are enormous opportunities for industrial enterprises as well.
In fact, Augmented Reality is an especially fast-growing sector in the global economy, part of the larger digital transformation journey that many companies have undertaken during the past couple of decades.
Within Augmented Reality, two of the most important recent developments – and two key factors driving that growth mentioned above – are digital twins and digital threads.
A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical product or process. A digital thread takes the concept one step further, connecting and integrating data across enterprise systems for a single source of truth.
For large organizations with significant footprints across the globe, the benefits are clear.
Through digital twin and digital thread technology, companies glean more insight into the health and performance of all operations, enabling them to improve consistency, collaboration and alignment across teams. Digital twins and digital thread also help improve remote monitoring, leading to better predictive maintenance.
When combined with augmented reality, digital twins and digital thread become even more valuable.
Together, they provide front-line workers with the resources to learn quicker while minimizing errors, which protects margins. In an environment where travel is restricted (this year) or factories want to quickly ramp up production to make up for lost time (next year), these capabilities are all the more critical.
If that all sounds a little abstract, here’s an illustrative example from Howden, which uses PTC technology:
Local service teams use tablets and mobile devices to communicate with remote product experts. When a problem emerges, the product teams can triage complications and troubleshoot issues in real time via shared video and audio from the support team. Experts see exactly what the services team is looking at and can provide instructions by drawing digital annotations on the shared, real-world environment. Because these digital annotations are anchored to the technician’s view, multi-step solutions are easy to follow and greatly reduce the potential for mistakes and miscommunication.
These are some of the most common use cases for AR and digital twins:
- Frontline Work Enablement – representing 75% of the global workforce, these professionals need a way to bring digital data into their day-to-day. By 2025, there will be close to 60 million active users of AR across a broad range of industries.
- Quality Assurance – Training new operators on complex inspection procedures using traditional methods can take a significant amount of time. AR equips technicians and operators with a single source of truth using the latest products and machine configurations for real-time support.
- Product Differentiation – The pace of new product introduction, change and competition has never been faster. Digital twins and AR can play a significant role in improved lifecycle management, training and support, as demonstrated by the Howden case study.
- Process Efficiency – Often times, deploying or modifying a product line involves collaborating with many different partners in different places. With AR and digital threads, it’s easier to bring design contributions together and create a design for the entire line, rather than doing it piecemeal.
AR and digital twins already offer many opportunities for enterprises, and as the technology continues to advance, there will be even more. To read more about it, download this digital transformation whitepaper from ABI Research.