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Ericsson implements AR as first step towards smart manufacturing

 Ericsson said it is implementing AR at its own production facilities in Estonia

Ericsson announced it is taking the initial steps in the smart manufacturing field at its own production sites by using augmented reality (AR) for troubleshooting.

The vendor said a team of researchers and engineers at the Ericsson factory in Tallinn, Estonia, have made troubleshooting electronic boards easier with the use of augmented reality.

Augmented reality troubleshooting (ART) is a tool designed to facilitate quick and easy learning as well as information sharing in the repair and maintenance area. Its main aim is to remove the need for Word documents with instructions due to the high workload required to create, edit and update those documents and train technicians.

“We found out that while working on a faulty unit, roughly half of a technician’s time goes to non-value add activities such as finding and linking schematics with layout files, fault info and troubleshooting instructions,” said Mihkel Tedremaa, product technology manager.

By using an augmented reality solution and an Android tablet or HoloLens, the troubleshooter can find the fault more quickly thanks to the extra layer of digital information that is added to the real-world image. ART also makes it easier and quicker to send data between different factories.

“If, for example, our engineers solve a very tricky issue this information could immediately reach our sites in China,” Tedremaa said. “The just-in-time fault-finding data, combined with better ergonomics and faster information sharing, can boost productivity by 50%,” he added.

So far, the Swedish vendor is implementing ART in 2 out of 8 workplaces in Tallinn. However, Ericsson said it aims to deploy this technology in other Ericsson facilities such as the firm’s plant in Nanjing, China.

The company also highlighted that fault data and troubleshooting instructions are also being added to the system so the solution can be applied to other products.

“Augmented reality troubleshooting is an incredibly simple solution for understanding functional parts of products and to share information between teams and sites,” Tedremaa said.

Ericsson also said that future 5G technologies will also benefit the implementation of new smart manufacturing solutions. One of the use cases being explored is AR-assisted factory maintenance. In this use case, 5G will provide the low latency required for sustained augmented image quality. 5G technology will also offer high bandwidth for high-resolution image quality and connection density to guarantee that entire sites can stay connected without disruptions.

“With 5G we can connect more things to each other and to humans,” Tedremaa said, adding that increased connectivity will narrow the time gap between data-gathering and decision-making. The executive said that this will benefit enterprises as the new technologies will reduce downtime, increase output, and improve safety.

A number of European telcos are also exploring the benefits of AR. Vodafone Italy has recently announced it aims to invest 10 million euros ($12 million) over the next four years to promote projects in areas such as augmented and virtual reality, robotics as well as 5G-based apps and digital solutions covering the industry 4.0, healthcare, smart city, smart grid, security and entertainment sectors.

Telecom Italia is also exploring augmented reality in its laboratory in Turin dubbed TIMLab.

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