Made in IBM Labs: IBM scientists unveil prototype that will put 'Smart mobility' into maintenance, repairs and operations

    Made in IBM Labs: IBM scientists unveil prototype that will put 'Smart
              mobility' into maintenance, repairs and operations

Using a combination of augmented reality and robotics the system brings
critical information and remote expertise directly to field engineers.

PR Newswire

HURSLEY, England, April 24, 2013

HURSLEY, England, April 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Scientists from IBM (NYSE:
IBM) revealed today a mobile maintenance, repair and operations (MRO)
prototype which is designed to help manufacturers and companies supplying and
maintaining high-value machinery in sectors such as aerospace, oil & gas and

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The mobile system, using a combination of augmented reality and robotics, will
help field engineers accurately locate equipment, provide them with critical
information and receive real-time visual support from supervising experts
based remotely.

Today MRO tasks typically involve an engineer visiting a site, finding the
right machine, and making sure they have an appropriate task sheet. If they
run into difficulty, they might call for help from a remote supervisor or
product expert.

The new system allows a supervisor to monitor an engineer's progress towards
the maintenance site, using GPS. Once on site, an engineer can use a smart
phone and QR codes to locate and identify an asset and receive maintenance
instructions. The smart phone uses augmented reality technology to overlay
points of interest over a plan of the site, which can include the location of
other engineers, first aid stations and health and safety apparatus.

If assistance is needed, a remote expert is able to view the on-site
engineer's workspace and support them with real-time video and audio links
using a camera and a small projector mounted at the end of a remotely
controlled robotic arm. The expert, from his management console, is also able
to project a pointer and valuable information such as free-hand sketches,
assembly instructions and CAD images directly onto the workspace or a nearby

Richard Lanyon-Hogg, IBM Technical Director for the industrial sector, said:
"The MRO prototype brings together two innovative IBM technologies, developed
in our European research labs in Hursley and Haifa, into a single solution for
our clients. It offers manufacturers the opportunity to lower their costs,
provide just-in-time knowledge transfer and reduce the personal risk to
engineers working in difficult environments."

Studies have shown that remote support is much more efficient if on-site and
remote engineers can share a visual representation of the site workspace and
the on-site engineer's actions. To date this has been accomplished, and only
in part, by on-site engineers using hand-held cameras, mounted head-gear or
specialist glasses. The new system provides the supervisor with complete
visual independence and a more stable video image; on-site engineers are able
to work with greater freedom or, in the case of those with specialist glasses,
freed from the tiring need to re-focus their eyes.

The expert's ability to deliver critical information can also be further
enhanced as the fully working prototype is adapted and integrated with a
company's specific MRO operations, asset management solutions such as IBM
Maximo and Product Lifecycle Management systems. The ability to direct data to
either the engineer's mobile phone or the robot's projector adds a further
dimension to the system's portability and flexibility.

The project is the result of a collaboration with the University of Sheffield
Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). The AMRC is responsible for
identifying, researching and resolving advanced manufacturing problems in
order to help businesses become more competitive through the application of
new techniques, technologies and processes. It is part of the High Value
Manufacturing Catapult, a network of leading manufacturing research centres
backed by the UK government.

Dr Rab Scott, Head of the Virtual Reality and Modelling Group AMRC, said:
"IBM's MRO prototype is an exciting addition to the innovative toolset used by
the AMRC's researchers and engineers. We hope to demonstrate its usefulness
and versatility in a number of situations within the manufacturing arena."

The new system exemplifies how a new wave of mobile computing is
revolutionising how businesses can transform their processes. Data from
existing back-end systems is increasingly placed in the hands of front-line
employees. Social media too is transforming the way employees are able to
interact, by extending the reach of organisational expertise at minimal cost.

Afully working IBM MRO system has been installed at the AMRC's Diamond
Jubilee Knowledge Transfer Centre.

Media Contact
John Galvez
IBM Communications
+44 77 34 104275


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