The adoption of IoT, AI, Robotics and Unmanned Vehicles has resulted in an increase in the range, complexity and number of automated tasks conducted by machines. This is does not imply the full replacement of human labour, but rather a change of human jobs to provide direction and to collaborate with machines,
Devices and machines equipped with the new Key Technologies bring new workflows that include both physical, and also digital work information. Their use requires constant and intense exchange of information, increasing the complexity of the interaction between human workers and machines.
Traditional human-machine interfaces are insufficient in providing enough context and efficient interaction between human and advanced machines. This has driven the development and adoption of new interface technologies powered by AI and IoT and pioneered in the creative industries, which have been already been applied in a significant scale to manufacturing, and that is rapidly extending to Transport and Logistics, bringing operational efficiency to a level unimagined a decade ago.
EXTENDED REALITY, DEFINITION AND CATEGORIES
This new wave of interface technologies is included under the umbrella of Extended Reality. These technologies enhance human senses, providing additional information, either about the actual world or through simulated worlds for humans to experience, with the objective of monitoring, managing, and making decisions working with advanced machines. It includes: Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies.
Virtual Reality (V.R.)
VR offers a complete immersive experience in a computer-generated environment. Its use is already widespread in the creative sector and has also been adopted by the retail trade, but VR has little applicability and offers limited benefits to the manufacturing and logistics sectors.
Augmented Reality (A.R.)
Augmented Reality is a more evolved and useful interface than Virtual Reality. Unlike virtual reality, which requires the user to inhabit a virtual environment, AR applications superimpose digital information like digital 3D, computer generated graphics and images of the equipment on top of the user’s physical environment. AR thus provides a more natural environment for workers to instruct advanced machines to actuate, often through human physical motion. Its use is particularly efficient when it is necessary to modify the tasks being conducted by the machine, since AR offers an interactive dashboard that avoids costly reprogramming breaks.
Mixed Reality (M.R.)
Mixed Reality is an emerging technology that combines VR and AR, facilitating working in a real-world environment using some virtual objects. For example, an immersive rendering of the internal components and functioning of a device that the operator is using.
VR, AR and Mixed Reality powered by AI and IoT can be combined in different proportions, to provide an interface aligned with the specific workflow and tasks being conducted and the level of autonomy of the machine. Also, proportions are adjusted to facilitate the specific tasks being conducted by the human operator, such as monitoring, scenario testing, reprogramming and task modifications. As an example of Mixed Reality interface can make proactive dynamic, and computerised adjustments without written reports, nor direct physical work on the machines.
NEW EXTENDED REALITY ADOPTION AND EFFECTS
The following table summarises some of the uses of AR and VR in Transport and Logistics by companies, operators, planners, and administrations. Also, the use of advanced human-machine interfaces is a requirement for the optimal use of other new Key Technologies already deployed, like IoT enabled machinery, unmanned vehicles and advanced robotics.
Data Access and Environment Interaction
Enhance Human Capabilities
Equipment assembly, use and maintenance, Human training
Remote support, Fulfillment Claims
Navigation by virtual display in autonomous vehicles and drones
Functional design optimisation in warehouses, urban spaces, factories and public use infrastructures, Inventory and in-transit monitoring, Disruption and safety response, Consumer virtual navigation of facilities or travel
Space and environment monitoring, Buildings and corporate or public facilities inspection
Spatial optimisation for order packing, and shipment organisation, Order picking
Product, construction, urban and infrastructure design
Operations monitoring, Production line optimisation, Quality Control, Equipment monitoring and diagnostics
Operator instruccions for large equipment and also precision processes,Task sequence and assembly work instructions, Asset installation, Maintenance instruction and guidance
CETMO Analysis, adapted from Boston Consulting Group (1)
Creative and entertainment sectors are at the forefront of the adoption and use of Virtual Reality. Likewise, the industrial, transport and logistics sectors lead the development and moderately progressive adoption of Mixed Reality.
While these new human-machine interfaces are a logical continuation of the deployment of other Key Technologies, they also have some potential strong effects in customer relationship, adding the possibility to offer new customer experiences particularly in passenger transportation, plus a degree of empathy absent from automated digital interactions.
Regarding social and Country Disparity, AR, VR and MR are potent tools to improve economic, urban, agricultural and health care Planning. In addition, they make it possible for the first time, the management of infrastructures and services in underdeveloped and remote areas by specialised human operators, located in distant central or regional operational centres. A good example is AR applied to remote management of drones and agricultural and mining machinery.
CETMO Analysis, adapted from McKinsey & Company (2)
Yusuf, Lukic, Boston Consulting Group-BCG. Unleashing the Power of Data with IoT and Augmented Reality. 2020
McKinsey & Company. Ashutosh, Hastings, Murnane, Neuhaus, Automation in Logistics: Big Opportunity, Bigger Uncertainty, 2019. link
HUMAN INTERFACE, AUGMENTED AND VIRTUAL REALITY EFFECTS ON TRANSPORT
These technologies are starting to have a relevant impact improving operators working conditions and reducing the risk of work accidents and. In passenger transport, these new interfaces allow for the offering of new services to users and the improvement of their travel experience. Additionally, the simulation of real conditions and situations opens the door to new possibilities in planning, operations, business relations and support.
Increased Use of Information and Efficiency: Augmented Reality facilitates the interaction between employees and machines and allows to locate, extract relevant information, finalise tasks and solve problems more efficiently. For example, more agile physical search for cargo and merchandise, less time for cargo operations and better inventory and warehouse management.
Error Reduction: Particularly, in picking errors, and in general, any documentary and physical errors in shipments. It also allows an increase in quality, efficiency and safety, in tasks such as maintenance or supervision.
Staff Training: simulating real situations in areas or contexts that are risky or expensive to reproduce or deal with in another way. It also offers the possibility of optimised cost-efficient training in all areas.
Service Quality Increase: by creating simulated situations which allow for the identification of inefficiencies in processes and protocols, plus generating scenarios and situations not contemplated previously. Additionally, simulations can be created to optimise operations and services by virtual trial and error at a near insignificant additional cost.
Increased Risk Management Capabilities: simulations allow for the generation of risk situations not contemplated before, that facilitate the creation of contingency and emergency plans.
Better Handling and Maintenance of Machinery, Engines and Equipment: Digital information in 2 and 3D such as production graphics, machine diagrams and images of operation are superimposed on the physical environment of the device and facilitate the performance of complex operations, changes in processes and monitoring the status of engines, vehicles and load.
Increased Use of Information and Efficiency: Similar to Freight Transportation, augmented reality facilitates the interaction between employees and machines, to extract relevant information, finalise tasks and solve problems more efficiently. For example, in Passenger transport, it will facilitate and improve the process of identification and location of vehicles, etc., allowing for more speed and greater control, both for the operating company and for the user.
New Product and Service Development Marketing, Sales: Extended Reality changes the way the products can be displayed, accelerating its development and tuning, as it recreates reality in a more accurate way (for example, showing the simulation of future conditions, or the visual comparison with the current ones).
Staff Training: similar to Freight Transport.
Customer Experience Improvement: ER can improve the service experience for the user, facilitating the recreation and simulation of processes related to the different stages of the trip, such as the arrival at the door or platform, vehicle access and installation, vehicle exit and station access, or station exit.
Increased Risk Management Capabilities: similar to Freight Transport.
Better Handling and Maintenance of Machinery, Engines and Equipment: Similar to Freight Transport.
Sources: CETMO and “Impacte de les KETs en la digitalització dels diferents àmbits del transport”, CENIT-CINESI – December 2020