BT adds industrial AR to ‘Disneyland for industrialists’ at UK research HQ
UK telecoms firm BT has unveiled a new augmented reality (AR) demo as part of its ‘connected industry’ showcase at its Adastral Park science campus. The enhanced industrial IoT exhibit is one of nine functional digital-change showcases, arranged like a “Disneyland for industry decision makers” at the Suffolk-based research lab.
BT has started to get serious about connecting industry with new digital sensing and sense-making technologies, at least in terms of its press and marketing outreach. Last month, the company was appointed as the lead technology partner for the Worcestershire 5G Testbed (W5G), billed as the UK’s first live private 5G network. It said private industrial 5G is the “only” way to deliver flexible and smart manufacturing.
It is also engaged in the UK government’s newest round of industrial-change funding, worth £30 million, leading the 5G Edge-XR project to show how 5G and cloud-based graphics processing could bring immersive AR and VR experiences to sports services, starting with its own BT Sports bundle. BT is working with TheGridFactory, Condense Reality, Dance East, Bristol University, and Salsa Sound on the 5G Edge-XR project.
The company has also just switched on NB-IoT, on its EE mobile network, as part of the UK’s “largest” smart water pilot to manage leaks and interruptions for Yorkshire Water. NB-IoT sensors will issue data to a cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) engine to make sense of data from almost 4,000 acoustic, flow, pressure, and water quality monitors.
BT is also working with the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust to demonstrate scenarios where 5G technology could provide solutions for the healthcare sector. BT is involved in a number of smart city pilots and projects, besides.
The Adastral Park showcase, described as a Disney World affair for industrialists by a spokesperson, includes customer demonstrations of IoT and AI tools, sprung with various communications technologies, for sectors such as retail, banking, healthcare, and city management, as well as Industry 4.0.
The new AR implementation is with Canada-based Librestream, which produces an ‘augmented worker’ solution that works with smartphones, tablets, and smart-glass platforms, and enables enterprises to deliver AR-based work instructions between remote experts and ‘coal-face’ technicians, who are on site, and navigating technical issues.
BT has integrated Librestream’s Onsight technology suite into the ‘connected industry’ setup at Adastral Park. Onsight is being used in various industrial sectors, including in energy, manufacturing, utilities, construction, telecoms, and logistics.
The platform gives on-site workers live access to expert to remote experts, augmented by digitized work instructions and content, including live data from IoT sensors, thermal imaging, borescopes, and schematics. It incorporates AI-based techniques like computer (machine) vision to identify assets, and natural language processing (NLP) to enable real-time translation between technicians.
It is being meshed into the technologies already enabled in the existing ‘connected industry’ showcase, including industrial wireless, IoT sensors, wearables, and field force automation. BT is in the process of bringing Librestream into its field force automation offer, from its enterprise division.
BT claims interest in connected worker solutions like Librestream have grown by over 500 percent over the quarter, during the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic – without providing an original baseline for the rate of interest.
Rob Mayhew, showcase innovation manager at BT, said: ”The demonstrations in our connected industry showcase allow us to show a technology capability to customers, who may not be aware of what is available and how BT can help them. Our Librestream demonstration shows customers how their software can be used to deliver a collaborative environment to troubleshoot, inspect, and resolve issues in the field.”
Jon Newman, vice president of product management at Librestream, said: “The BT showcase is an impressive facility that provides as close to a real-world experience as possible. Many of our energy and manufacturing customers from the UK and overseas have explored this facility.”
BT’s other customer showcases at Adastral Park are for connected home, smart retail, smart banking, mobile network management, connected healthcare, smart cities, plus a ‘customer experience centre’ that shows BT’s cloud and networking capabilities. A ninth showcase is unnamed.