5G: an ally of augmented technicians for maintenance operations

From smart glasses to big data, increasingly sophisticated digital solutions are used for maintenance operations, thereby enhancing the capabilities of already versatile technicians. 5G will help develop these practices by making them more efficient and more comfortable, always with the goal of saving time and improving efficiency.

Real-time collaboration between technicians and experts thanks to 5G-connected, augmented-reality glasses with an HD camera

By wearing augmented-reality glasses, a technician can perform maintenance operations with remote assistance from an expert. The expert, called via a smartphone, can enter the technician's surroundings thanks to the video stream captured by the camera attached to the technician's glasses.

“With the arrival of 5G and the increase in mobile throughput, video streams between the expert and the technician are in HD, providing more detail, instant exchanges and greater comfort for the technician,” explains Marc Dufayet, Product Manager in Network Experiences Marketing at Orange Business Services.

With very-high-resolution rendering, it will then be possible to zoom in to observe certain details or markings with greater acuity than with the human eye (for example, to read a serial number on a part). The improved image fluidity will also facilitate remote analysis of the parts in motion, for example in an engine. Using augmented reality will provide clear and precise indications to the technician throughout his task, directly in his field of vision without the need to use his hands. With 5G, large documents (such as a plan or a 3D diagram) sent by the expert will reach the technician instantly. Real-time expert support!

More data available in real time

The high-speed throughput of 5G will give technicians the necessary information at their fingertips, instantly. This will enable them to carry out maintenance operations even more efficiently, on even the most complex equipment, without needing to repeat the process. Flashing a machine’s or a part’s QR code with a smartphone will give them direct access to instructions or drawings, for example. Moreover, they will be able to better transmit visuals of their repairs or reports.

These efficiency gains will benefit both internal maintenance and after-sales service of subcontractors, as Marc Dufayet confirms: “Within the framework of a maintenance contract, the use of a 5G telephone will make it possible to be put in video contact with a technical department and to pre-qualify the request to get involved. The repairer will be able to effectively guide the customer to solve the problem immediately. And if a trip is still required, the intervention will have been better qualified, meaning repairs can be done the first time.”

Increased use of artificial intelligence

Even without expert support, the technician can resort to artificial intelligence (AI) solutions for assistance. These solutions can collect, analyze and interpret a large volume of data stored in the cloud or coming from sensors, for example, and provide the technician with simple, real-time information tailored to the task at hand at any given time. 5G will become essential to convey all this data that is bound to multiply with very low latency. “Many players are already working on these changes to data and AI-based maintenance processes using existing networks such as 4G or LTE-M,” says Marc Dufayet. “The use of 5G will undoubtedly be a key element in accelerating these transformation projects.”