The challenge

Flying in an expert can be expensive and time consuming

There is a growing need to deliver expert services to remote field workers, especially in the mining industry. However flying in an expert to fix a machine in a remote location can be an expensive proposition.

Our response

We're bringing experts to the site (remotely)

ReMoTe (Remote Mobile Tele-assistance) is hands free, wearable, technology that connects remote experts with on site operators to provide real-time assistance when problems arise.

Designed to operate in various environmental conditions, ReMoTe consists of a helper station and an operator station, with both the helper and the operator using a wearable computer that includes a helmet-mounted camera and a near-eye display.

The display provides a shared visual space between the offsite helper and the onsite operator, allowing the helper to point at objects and show the operator how to perform actions. The operator can see the pointing and gestures from the helper's virtual hands.

[Music plays and text appears: ReMoTe Assistance]

[Image shows a technician working on a helicopter engine and a remote expert guiding him via her touch screen]

Leila Alem: Remote technology is a technology that allows a remote expert to assist, in real time, a field worker anywhere, any time; all you need is an internet connection
[Image changes to Leila Alem, Principal Research Scientist at CSIRO]

So instead of calling the expert and trying to get their assistance over the phone or instead of flying in the expert and that costs a lot to a remote operation, you click a button and you have instant communication with your specialist.

[Image changes to show a man donning a headset and Kostia Robert guiding him via the touch screen

You're able to demonstrate with your hand what needs to be done, you know, what particular way you need to turn, for example, a knob.

[Image changes to close ups of the technician and touch screen as Kostia Robert directs him]

Kostia Robert: Can you please use your torch to show me the side of the machine? There should be three connectors there. Can you reach it with your torch? I need you to disconnect the left-most connector there. Can you put it on this one? Okay, yes all good.

[Image changes to show a close up of the hard hat type headset and then the head mounted system]

Leila Alem: We initially designed it for the mining industry but we also have a different form factor that allows you to just have a head mounted system that you can adjust the way you want it, whether you're wearing prescription glasses, safety glasses or whatever.

[Image changes to Kostia Robert, Senior Software Engineer at CSIRO]

Kostia Robert: The worker is seeing the hand gesture of the expert but also the expert can show some technical documents that are relevant to the workspace. And do a notation on top of those documents.

[Image changes to show different coloured lines being drawn on plans via the touch screen]

The technology that we’ve developed doesn’t need any training. Both the expert and the worker has a audio headset so they are able to speak to each other in real time.

[Image changes again to close ups of the technician and touch screen and then the torch being used as a scanner]

We have added a touch-like device to the worker unit. In addition to the camera in the torch we have added a scanner, so that the worker can use the tags in the workspace to retrieve information like technical documents, manuals or a selection of videos.

[Image changes back to Leila Alem and then examples of the industries she mentions]

Leila Alem: There's a wide range of applications for this technology and the industries that would benefit from it include health, transport, mining, shipping.
[Image changes to Brian No, Manager at Boeing Research and Technology (BRT) Seattle, USA]

Brian No: We see tremendous value in using the remote guidance systems from manufacturing and assembly, training, maintenance and emergency repair.

[Image changes to show aircraft plans, repair tasks on the touch screen and another expert and worker using the system]

With the remote guidance system a single expert can assist multiple operators located at geographic separate locations.

[Image changes back to Kostia Robert]

Kostia Robert: All aspects of the network communication are secure. The connection, the communication between the expert and the worker, and the data.
[Image changes back to Brian No]

Brian No: CSIRO has customised these systems to our needs enabling us to do technical drawings and record the interaction between the expert and the operator.

[Image changes back to Leila Alem]

It's important to have this recording feature so that the field worker, after being assisted by a specialist can revisit the interaction they had with the specialist.

[Image changes again to close ups of the technician and touch screen and then back to Leila Alem]

And second of all, it's important for the specialist because then they have a record of what has taken place. Instead of flying in the expert and that cost a lot to remote operation, you have that expert when you need it, real time. It's like having the specialist with you in the room in front of the machine.

[Text appears: Winner - Research and Development at the 2013 iAwards]

[Text appears: Thanks to: CSIRO Minerals Down Under Flagship, CSIRO Future Manufacturing Flagship, CSIRO Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, Boeing Research and Technology, VR Media.]

[Text appears:]

[Music plays and text appears: Big ideas start here]

ReMoTe Assistance

The whole system has been designed for ease of use, so technicians can operate it without any training or prior skills.

ReMoTe offers a number of advantages over traditional support models including the productivity gains associated with reduced repair costs and operational downtime, increased conformance from having access to experts in real time to reduce mistakes, the opportunity to improve workforce skills by offering additional training that wasn't previously available, and reducing strain on experts allowing them to deliver their knowledge in a more effective manner.

The results

A whole range of possibilities

We're currently working with a commercialisation partner to deliver ReMoTe to the mining industry. While this was the industry we originally envisaged for ReMoTe, we're also exploring other applications including:

  • remote maintenance tasks for the automotive, rail and aviation industries,
  • remote medical assistance for field health workers,
  • remote vocational training programs which require physical and manual skills,
  • cultural programs that link experts in remote Aboriginal communities with art students,
  • remote inspection of product conformance for the manufacturing industry,
  • emergency response scenarios,
  • remote delivery of expert services for small and medium enterprises.

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