The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic has established wide-ranging and necessary limitations on travel and close personal contact. These restrictions and precautions are presenting organizations— of all sizes and across all sectors — with a series of challenges.
Research published March 16, 2020, by Imperial College London, and supporting research bodies, suggests that some virus suppression tactics aimed at reducing human-to-human transmission may have to be sustained for 12 – 18 months, depending on several variables.
Now in June 2020, the world is in the recover and reimagine phases of pandemic response and business continuity planning is top of mind.
With preliminary measures in place (remote work policies, essential staff only directives, etc.), organizations are now taking a harder look at their continuity practices and resiliency, asking themselves:
To solve these problems, companies are relying more and more on technologies that digitally connect workers and help sustain delivery of service.
To make operations more resilient, some are turning to augmented and mixed reality tools to contribute to their continuity plans.
MR tools for conferencing, data visualization, and remote support either digitally connect teams or focus on the delivery of task-relevant guidance, but all reduce the requirement of human-to-human contact and can keep an organization’s operations moving forward remotely.
There are MR tools on the market that allow users, using multiple AR, MR, and even VR devices, to remotely collaborate in real-time. In many of these platforms, each user’s avatar (a visual representation of the user) appears for other team members in their real-world environment (or virtual environment in some cases). This essentially creates a digital meeting that is intuitively understood by the human brain. Some MR conferencing tools come equipped with visualization features such as sticky notes, web search functions, and whiteboard functions baked in. Spatial is perhaps the most well-known MR conferencing solution. It should be noted that Spatial is a hardware-agnostic tool making it more of an extended reality (XR, a term used to encompass AR, MR, and VR) conferencing software.
From a business continuity standpoint, MR conferencing tools allow businesses to meet, plan, and strategize regardless of where in the world meeting participants are located. The intuitive nature of mixed reality can also have positive impacts on those who use these tools, leaving them feeling connected and engaged, as if they had just had an in-person meeting.
Kognitiv Spark CEO, Yan Simard alongside COO and Co-Founder, Duncan McSporran spoke on this very topic in a recent Microsoft webcast. This webcast “Keep Operations Flowing: Mixed Reality for Business Continuity,” is available for viewing on-demand.
Not all businesses are able to have their entire workforce operate remotely. Many workers can’t do their work from behind a computer or in their home office.
MR remote support tools can help organizations that deliver essential services (energy, defense, medical, policing) or those that are operating with select staff sustaining production or delivery of services (manufacturing, heavy industry).
These MR platforms connect workers to subject matter experts to facilitate complex troubleshooting and task guidance. Essentially, if a senior resource is in a different country or working from home, MR remote support tools allow an in-the-field worker to connect with them for task guidance.
Remote Support tools can eliminate the need for subject matter experts to travel while still leveraging their knowledge to keep production and service delivery efficient and accurate. Human-to-human contact is reduced using MR remote support by supporting the on-site worker effectively making them more independent and efficient. RemoteSpark, Kognitiv Spark’s flagship application, is an example of an MR remote support tool that has been used to this effect.
Finally, MR data visualizations tools cover a very broad scope of use cases. Some facilitate the identification of specific systems, others can help with industrial site planning (relocating equipment) and project comprehension (visualizing 3D blueprints)
Generally, what they allow is for workers is visualize complex data in their environment, be that a living room, a production line, or a sewage system below a city street. MR data visualization tools allow workers to operate more independently. This can help limit human-to-human contact by providing the worker with the data they need to complete a given task, avoiding the need to send additional resources to the worksite in question.
vGIS is an example of an MR data visualization tool that does just that. This AR/MR company allows for the visualization of geo-specific BIM and GIS data.
Dynamic 365 Guides is another example of an MR data visualization tool aimed at supporting frontline workers. Guides allows for the visualization of custom, step-by-step instructions that can support complex workflows helping the end-user complete a given task with ease and clarity.
Ensuring that an organization can operate in a variety of restricting circumstances and conditions is vital to the resiliency of any organization.
Whether an organization encounters environmental, health, political, or legal barriers to the execution of its operations, various mixed reality tools serve to help surmount these obstacles.
Whether from a multi-national enterprise, small-to-medium enterprise, or government service perspective, MR tools are creating considerable impact when travel is restricted or impossible at a local, regional, or national level.
Aside from their inherent financial benefits, MR platforms can be highly effective at:
1. Ensuring employee safety.
2. Supporting continuity of support to internal teams, facilities, or customers.
3. Helping maintain high levels of production and support for teams, operations, and customers.
4. Re-assuring current and future clients of safe and effective deliverability of products and/or services.
Mixed reality solutions that focus on enhancing the connectivity of teams and creating easy access to relevant support and information will have a profound impact on operational efficiency and task completion when in-person support isn’t an option.
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