It was back in 2012 when the Google glasses were announced with great fanfare. Fast forward five years, however, and they are nowhere close to fulfilling all the hype that surrounded them at the time. However, that can only be said in terms of mass consumption, as in the business world they are making strides with their Enterprise Edition. Microsoft, on the other hand, is betting on augmented reality with their Hololens glasses, focusing on medical and industrial uses. One of the most interesting applications of the technology developed by the Redmond giant has been in the water treatment field.
Along these lines, Spain has become the test bed for the “Augmented Facility Management” program, developed by O&M branch of ACCIONA Water. The program has brought its own approach to water quality management in which high tech is already ubiquitous through the SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system. The latest project within ACCIONA’s program has been implemented in the La Almunia de Doña Godina sewage treatment plant located in the Spanish region of Zaragoza, where virtual reality and augmented reality are coming together in a revolutionary approach.
Equipped with a pair of Hololens glasses, each operator can view their work environment with a set of superimposed holograms, thus navigating an augmented reality. Each screen provides a holographic representation of the measurements made by different sensors, allowing the wearer to undertake quality control processes with ease. Another advantage of this solution is the potential for monitoring facilities remotely, by engaging in real time with experts anywhere in the world who can make a diagnosis of the issues or guide the operator through the required steps to solve a critical situation.
In addition to this, ACCIONA is supporting its augmented reality initiatives with new training approaches that make use of virtual reality in order to enable future technicians to acquaint themselves with a range of work situations and their peculiarities in a risk-free environment. This technology also allows several students to participate remotely and simultaneously in each training session.
Augmented reality, big in Japan too
Japan is another country where great progress is being made in this area. “Interstage AR Processing Server”, a software developed by Fujitsu, is being used there in a water treatment plant owned by Metawater, one of the largest companies of its kind in the country. The operator, donning a pair of augmented reality glasses and a tablet, can check the state of different components without the need of in-depth knowledge, as the system stores a repository of images from different malfunctions and detects any issues, thus dispensing with the use of technical handbooks. In addition to this, up to 400 AR markers are used in each plant, thereby allowing the glasses to detect each component regardless of distance, framing or pollution. If any anomaly is detected, the operator can take a photograph or record a video along with an explanation.
The use of these technologies undeniably provides a myriad of advantages. A recent study carried out in Italy on the implementation of augmented reality in water treatment facilities in the south of the country summed up the following benefits:
- It is able to speed up monitoring and controlling activities;
- it reduces field activities costs thanks to the possibility of employing less-specialised labour;
- it improves the decision-making process through faster interventions.
The digital tools for processing and communicating with reality are evolving to the point that soon the virtual world and the real one will be fully integrated, with the boundaries between them growing thinner every day. A wide range of sectors will soon benefit from the integration of such real-time analysis to allow faster, more efficient and better informed decision-making processes.