Glass Smart This Time

GE Aviation’s pilot program with Glass and an augmented-reality system showed it could save millions in manufacturing and maintenance.

The 2014 first iteration of Google Glass—eyeglasses with a built-in computer and camera designed for the masses—became ensnarled by privacy concerns, so the company pulled it back from the market the following year.
Fast forward to July 2017, when Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and its X division announced the latest Glass, a “hands-free device for hands-on workers.” In the two years preceding the launch, the company apparently had switched its smart-glasses focus to industrial applications and away from consumers.

This could’ve been a really smart move because the potential applications across industries—including aviation manufacturing and maintenance—is endless.

GE Aviation conducted a pilot program with Glass and the Skylight software for augmented reality devices by X division partner Upskill and found it could save millions of dollars in the manufacturing and maintenance environment (see MRO 14). GE is now interested in rolling out the Glass and Upskill project to manufacturing and maintenance applications—from engine module assembly to maintenance, on-wing support or training.

Smart glasses with a head-up display and camera allow people to see work cards, diagrams or video while working, which can provide quality improvements and efficiencies—as well as being a tool employees like. This combination also allows field service personnel to collaborate with experts continents away via live video and audio, points out Jay Kim, chief strategy officer for Upskill, which specializes in augmented reality applications.

The people element is key. “Smart glasses and smart tools bring all people at the edge of work together and tie back in to the digital enterprise,” says Kim. “The quality of data that the digital enterprise has is only good if the people tie into it.” He thinks that is one of the primary benefits of these types of deployments.

“Coupling people with information, so systems like GE’s Predix can aggregate machine data and turn that into intelligence that, in turn, can be pushed to the people who are doing the work” is another big benefit, he says.

“It’s ultimately the people who turn it into action. And without action, all that data has no purpose,” Kim notes. The Upskill executive says the wearable market is moving very fast due to rapidly evolving technology.

“We’re starting to see some adoptions happening at some of the largest companies in the world, spanning multiple industries and multiple use cases. We feel that we’re right at the inflection point where augmented reality and IoT [the Internet of Things] are working together to drive some measurable gains,” he says.

Integrating smart glasses, data analytics and IoT creates the complete digital picture, according to Kim.

Similar to the maintenance axiom, “Getting the right part at the right price to the right person in the right place,” perhaps the new mantra is: “Turning the right data into the right action.”

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