Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by modern consumer technology. From your smartphone, computer, television, even the refrigerator you opened this morning is a complicated piece of technology. These pieces of technology are usable right out of the box, without an overly complicated setup process, because they are designed with the average consumer in mind. Nowadays, our everyday appliances are getting smarter, with advancements in micro-computers, Wi-Fi can be built into pretty much anything, allowing you to remotely control the device, or even use your cell phone to see what is inside your fridge.
On the other hand, there are industrial technologies. These are custom-made to suit a specific industry’s needs and can sometimes be overly-complicated to set up and get them running. The technology also requires training the employees, because mistakes could have huge financial repercussions.
But turns out, this line between the consumer and industrial tech is now fading away.
Industries are now Leaning on Consumer Tech
Now you might be wondering, if consumer tech and industrial tech are so different then why would industries want to adopt consumer techs in production plants. One major reason would be, they are easier to operate and generally cheaper, resulting in ROI increases. Usage of VR and AR gadgets, IoT, cloud computing, drones and teleoperated robots are increasingly notable in prominent companies’ manufacturing plants.
Briefly put, consumer tech is changing the way factories produce in the 5 following ways –
- AR for Complex Designing and Assembly: Assembly plants involve precise calculation, placement, and movement for the perfect assembly. Before Augmented Reality became a thing, any change in an existing design would bring a prolonged halt to production because the adjustments would have to be reprogrammed into the manufacturing robots. With AR, real-time designing and implementation have been made possible.
- Surveillance and Observation: Security cameras and POV cameras placed inside and outside manufacturing plants and even drones are used in modern production facilities for security, surveillance, and observation of workflow. Cameras are also used to create a vision system with sensors to help detect defects, or help guide robots.
- Extensive Support: Things often go wrong in production facilities. Machines break or malfunction, which can cause a halt in production until fixed. Experts may not be available at a facility when things go west. In an automated production facility with IoT, cloud computing, and structured network connectivity, an expert can provide remote support to diagnose and troubleshoot issues with nothing but a computer.
- Product QA Testing: Augmented Reality can outperform the existing quality assurance testing methods. Porsche and Airbus have practical methods of testing their finalized products using Augmented Reality, and more industries are joining the league. By 2020, pretty much all manufacturing plants will have AR in-house.
- Overall Automation of Industries: The old-school idea of needing specialized hardware and software solely made for industries is no longer a valid point. Existing VR and AR gadgets like the Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens may be used in a production facility with minor modification. There are developers who create AR helmets for industry-level use, DAQRI for instance. This company specializes in combining technologies like PLCs, cloud computing, SCADAs, histograms, and IoT into a helmet with the sole concentration on industrial applications.
Using advanced industrial technology in production certainly has some benefits over using consumer tech, at least for now. The industrial technology is usually more robust and durable, but complex and expensive, and consumer technologies like AR helmets are still in an early stage for industrial applications. However, as the full potential of consumer technologies are discovered and developed, I fully expect to see industries taking full advantage of the simplicity and lower cost of consumer technology.
Greg Conrad is a writer for Ax Control