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Using assisted reality wearables to combat carbon emissions and rising energy costs

Author : Jon Arnold, VP Sales, EMEA, RealWear

31 January 2023

Due to the global climate crisis and the more recent energy crisis, businesses are in need of a rethink regarding how they utilise their resources in order to reach net zero targets and reduce costs in response to soaring energy prices.

Image: RealWear
Image: RealWear

(Click here to view article in digital edition)

Reducing workforce travel and lowering office energy costs are two areas where businesses can make an immediate impact in their sustainability drive. While the pandemic-driven shift toward hybrid working for many office-based employees hasn’t quite put an end to the rush-hour commute, having fewer vehicles on the road has had a positive impact in the quest to reduce pollution.

If we look beyond road travel and at other forms of transport, such as aviation, it has grown faster in recent decades than road, rail or shipping. In fact, the IEA stated that in 2021, it accounted for over 2% of global energy-related CO2 emissions.

The office isn’t the only place of work

While office jobs are the focal point of discussions when the subject of hybrid working arises, it’s important that we don’t overlook other places where it is conducted to understand what can be done there to make people and processes more energy efficient. Therefore, we should also ask what the future of work looks like for frontline workers, and how industrial companies can operate more sustainably from a worker-perspective. It is a question for many industries, including process industries.

What is Assisted Reality?

Today, many organisations are assessing the role that Assisted Reality (aR) could play in industrial use cases. In short, aR technology enables an onsite front-line worker to share what they’re seeing in real-time with a remote-based colleague, via the head-mounted, voice operated computer they’re wearing. This means that, rather than a clutch of individuals making their way to a site to assess or address a problem, more of them can remain at their base (whether that’s at their home office, or office building) and view the scene remotely. The technology means that geographical distance between teams is no longer a barrier to productivity or efficiency, while helping to drive digital transformation on the frontline.

Image: RealWear
Image: RealWear

aR is hugely beneficial as it enables experts to visually guide and collaborate with customers and field technicians, thanks to live video streaming and images in real-time seamlessly bridging the physical and virtual worlds, while speeding up the process of resolving issues.

Sustainability benefits on offer from Assisted Reality

While travel costs and downtime reductions are significant benefits of remote assistance, so is the positive environmental impact stemming from them. Travel cost-savings are easy enough to grasp, but specific costs and potential benefits of assisted reality can vary depending on many factors: operational scale, average amount of travel, type of travel, number of travellers, distance travelled, and total time spent travelling. These can all correlate not only with costs to the business, but also with emissions and overall sustainability objectives. If complex troubleshooting that previously required extensive travel (and resulting downtime) can be accomplished without travel, then that obviously helps contribute to a more sustainable enterprise, and more mindful work travel in the future.

The technology is already capturing the interest of influential bodies, like ABI Research. Eric Abbruzzese, Research Director and an aR analyst states: “Over the past few years, the financial and operational benefits of using aR are becoming well known, as is the sustainability impact alongside. Remote assistance via aR is a potent, quick to implement use case with a significant positive impact. True sustainability efforts must be far-reaching beyond just travel reduction, but interim steps moving toward those broad sustainability improvements are necessary and are easily value-proven with available emissions data and possible travel reductions.”

Abbruzzese goes on to list his key takeaways in relation to carbon emissions, sustainability and aR:

- Sustainability is a journey, so have realistic timelines and expectations. It takes time and resources to move the needle, and while air travel is not responsible for the majority of global emissions or overall environmental impact, it is a notable and addressable element. Additionally, many efforts that put operations first can still have a positive environmental impact – more energy-efficient operations will save money and reduce energy usage.

- Weave sustainability strategies throughout both internal and go-to-market efforts. The importance of environmental protection will only increase over time, so those with early and concerted efforts stand out. As customers increasingly value sustainable partners, existing relationships are strengthened, and new opportunities are more plentiful. Many governments are embracing sustainability as a core tenet, and winning governmental favour similarly expands opportunity.

- Consider environmental impact at all points of an organisation. Travel reduction is only one facet. aR can help reduce machine and workflow downtime, reduce scrap rate, keep energy efficiency high, and more. Of course, there are significant efforts that aR never needs to touch as well – moving to low emissions vehicles and machines, using AI for simulation/modelling where possible, ensuring sustainability through the supply chain, etc.

Jon Arnold, VP Sales, EMEA, RealWear
Jon Arnold, VP Sales, EMEA, RealWear

Company use cases

There are many examples of companies using aR in order to progress sustainability objectives. One such example is TÜV SÜD which deployed aR devices across its nuclear business. The international company with its headquarters in Germany is using the devices to remotely test, inspect and certify technical systems, facilities and objects of all kinds to minimise hazards and prevent damage.

Since deploying the technology, TÜV SÜD’s nuclear business has witnessed significant benefits. A recent project using remote collaboration saved seven intercontinental flights alone. The cost and environmental benefits for both TÜV SÜD and the end customer were significant, saving roughly 11 hours of travel time and approximately €4,000 per flight. That equates to roughly 20 tons of carbon emissions saved for one project alone.

The positive sustainability impact is not limited purely to travel reduction either. Outside of travel, aR can help reduce errors and overall downtime. As mentioned before, the other element is energy usage and improved maintenance, thanks to aR keeping machines operating within optimal parameters between downtime events. This reduces energy wasted while operating. This is true across many sectors. Take, for instance, Wind Farms. Lost Production Factor is a common measurement of this efficiency over the lifetime of a unit. Less downtime results in more energy produced.

Assisted Reality is introducing smarter, more sustainable ways of working. Due to the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions over the past two years, workers were forced to find new ways to keep operations moving with entire industries being forced to transform overnight. That forced transformation meant that organisations greatly reduced travel time and enabled digital business models using aR. Critically, less climate-damaging CO2 was produced and emitted as a result, which has had a positive impact on organisations’ long term sustainability goals and ambitions. The challenge is not to go back to the old way, but to scale the learnings and technology to every part of your operations. That is true digital transformation.

About the author:

Jon Arnold is Vice President of Sales, EMEA at RealWear. He is an accomplished IT professional, having worked in the industry for the majority of his career. He is a veteran of six previous start-ups and leads RealWear’s European presence by working with new distributor reseller partners globally.

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