29 Apr 2021

How Augmented Reality Improves Safety in the Field

How Augmented Reality Improves Safety in the Field

How do you help personnel to visualize problems they’ll only face when working remotely? How do you give new recruits the confidence to tackle a dangerous task successfully on the first attempt?

Most people learn by doing. Watching someone else demonstrate an action isn’t the same as going through the motions – literally – for yourself. Plus, if you’re dealing with underground assets or complex components that are buried or obscured, simply showing someone how it’s done is not a viable option anyway.

In the utilities sector, these concerns are driving industry adoption of a compelling new technology: Augmented Reality (AR).

AR works by superimposing computer-generated images, video, text, sound, graphics or GPS data over the real-world environment. In other words, the physical space around you is “augmented” by digital / virtual elements, helping you to make sense of it more easily, access detailed information about what you’re looking at, or simulate how you would perform a particular action or task.

This has huge implications when it comes to technician safety. Firstly, it enhances training procedures, guiding a technician through the process they’ll have to attempt on their own from their own perspective, highlighting key issues and dangers that they need to look out for when at work.

This makes these threats seem far more immediate and real, while making it clear exactly what safety indicators they should be alert to.

Secondly, because AR can be used to “reveal” elements that can’t be seen by the naked eye, technicians working with underground or otherwise hidden assets and components can pinpoint exactly where each piece is, how to get to it, and how to manipulate it safely.

Data for these applications can be drawn from personal mobile devices, sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or unmanned aerial systems (UAS), among others – and as more and more devices are connected through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), these will only get more sophisticated.

In fact, today’s utility companies use AR not only to improve operational safety but also to locate and inspect assets, visualize equipment and structures, improve situational awareness, manage supply chain logistics and even provide remote assistance.

It’s an exciting development in a sector where employee safety is paramount – and well worth exploring for your team.