Using smart glasses for remote testing and inspections
Smart glasses’ role in remote inspections where distance, hazards or other restrictions might be an obstacle is growing.
- Smart glasses can help companies performing inspections where distance, hazards or other restrictions might be an obstacle.
- Smart glasses allow users to consult with experts in far-off locations, saving time and money for travel.
- The integrated architecture builder (IAB) is a process system configurator and estimator.
Remote inspection insights
- Smart glasses from RealWare adapted for use by TÜV SÜD provide a bidirectional connection between field workers and experts and ability to store, analyze and report results.
- Use helps reduce maintenance costs and improve sustainability efforts by reducing or eliminating need for sending experts via air travel.
The imposition of lockdowns or travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic also limited the ability to conduct traditional inspections of plants and components to some degree. This was the case for a Chinese valve manufacturer. An independent third-party quality assessment was necessary to meet regulatory requirements before marketing its products in Europe. The company used remote inspection (RI), with smart glasses playing a key role.
According to an analysis by Fortune Business Insights, the global inspection, repair, and maintenance (IRM) market size has shown a 7.2% decline in 2020 as compared to 2019 in “pre-pandemic times.” Nonetheless, the IRM market is anticipated to grow from almost $43 billion in 2022 to almost $73 billion by the end of the 2020s.
As the industry becomes more digitized, using smart glasses will grow in importance when it comes to performing inspections where distance, hazards or other restrictions might be an obstacle.
To remotely test, inspect and certify technical systems and facilities, a bidirectional connection is established between at least one onsite inspector (smart glass user) and any number of remote assessors (external experts) who follow and guide the inspection on a computer screen.
This eliminates travel times and reduces expenses for flights to plants which can be stationed all over the world. Areas of application generally include development, maintenance, troubleshooting and training. It also can be applied in production monitoring, education and training as well as acceptance tests or site acceptance tests.
Facing demanding conditions for remote inspections
In noisy work environments, such as an engine room, hearing protectors can be connected to the smart glasses via jacks. The microphone of the smart glasses can either be muted to allow one-way communication only, or noise cancellation can be activated so that inspections can still be conducted. The industrial smart glasses are also designed to withstand dusty and wet conditions: They can be worn under protective eyewear and be integrated into safety helmets.
This mostly eliminates the risk of personnel being exposed to hazards of a harsh working environment. Additional occupational safety benefits are provided by a voice-controlled user interface, which leaves the wearer’s hands free so that they are not distracted from the actual inspection process.
Six organizational hurdles to clear for remote inspections
For an inspection to take place remotely, the following questions need to be answered:
Is a remote inspector available near the site?
Has an employee received a briefing on the project with the specifics of the inspection?
Does the customer agree with the RI?
Has the customer confirmed if an RI is permissible for his or her client’s request (e.g., if an authority requires proof of conformity)?
Have all technical documents been checked for completeness and validity?
Can the glasses and their software be integrated into the existing IT infrastructure?
Once all organizational hurdles have been cleared, the inspection is conducted. An inspection report is then prepared, and the results are sent to the customer in the form of a report.
Going online with protected data
The connection of smart glasses requires a reliable and sufficiently fast network on site. The easiest way to check this is running an internet speed test suitable for the respective connection type (Wi-Fi, LTE). This can be done online via any web browser. Recommendations include a bandwidth of 4Mbit/s (up/down) for optimal performance.
As the examination is recorded and documented as part of the production monitoring, all data must be stored on servers under high security requirements according to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). To handle sensitive data as carefully as possible, companies need to operate secured servers that are certified in accordance with the international standard ISO/IEC 27001 – Information Security Management.
Before a remote inspection is initiated, the customer must allow video and audio transmission. A data protection officer available on site should also be involved, for example to approve a data backup and choose its type or to specify privacy measures such as face blurring.
Remote inspection at a Chinese valve manufacturer
A Chinese manufacturer and distributor of valves needed a third-party quality assessment to meet regulatory requirements for marketing in France and the UK. The valves in question were intended for use in nuclear and thermal power plants, among other applications, and therefore had to be monitored during production. For this purpose, the company commissioned a third party for inspection.
Employees from China were on site but could rely on the support of their colleagues in Germany. As the valves were electronically controlled, electrical engineers had to be called in via smart glasses at the manufacturing facility. With help from experts in mechanical engineering, they checked the critical components against digital manuals and circuit diagrams. The specialists for non-destructive testing (NDT) and leak tightness as well as for seam welding were also involved via smart glasses.
Although a lockdown was imposed at the time and travel restrictions were in place, the company was able to bypass these and successfully assess the valves within the specified time frame. This also helped the customer to save on travel expenses by avoiding seven round-trip intercontinental flights. Another plus was less air pollution.
Smart glasses help remote inspections
Remote inspections with smart glasses bundle the know-how of specialists from various fields in only one carrier who must be on site. This saves time and costs and lowers emissions. Plant failures and consequential damage can be investigated and repaired in a short time. TÜV SÜD inspection services follow DIN EN ISO/IEC 17020:2012. Courtesy: TÜV SÜD provides an ISO 20071-certified Remote Service Platform to store and retrieve the recorded inspections in encrypted form.
Christoph Gatzen, head of instrumentation, control and electrical division; Simon Lemin director of industry service division; both with TÜV SÜD. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keywords: remote monitoring, remote inspection, smart glasses
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