Augmented reality can change the way operators maintain their ships – for the better
Originally focused on virtual games, augmented reality (AR) has now entered the shipping sector and offers huge benefits.
It is something Valmet is focused on and began offering in 2016. Now its AR can be used with all main tablets and smart phone devices for remote support applications.
Valmet research director automation R&D, Mika Karaila explained “Valmet support centres are located all over world, with experts in many different domains.” Ship operators will be able to gain support for operational and system problems remotely. The benefits of both real-time discussions with experts and on-time maintenance activities help customers avoid uncertainty in a vessel’s operation from a process automation point of view.
“AR is an excellent tool to communicate with our customers. All service requests can be responded to instantly.” And Valmet is planning to develop this further. For example, the vessel’s electrician could have a Pointr application on a tablet for indoor positioning to explain to Valmet’s experts about the fault in a specific process automation cabinet or controller. “In that way, he can be connected to several specialists at the same time in the Valmet Performance Centre. No matter where a ship is located, Valmet’s people will be there virtually,” explained Mr Karaila.
Explaining how it works, he said that with Microsoft HoloLens, the customer can walk around the vessel, make a report in the application, order spare parts or write down proposals on which devices may have to be maintained or replaced soon – thus helping to support the lifecycle of the vessel.
The company is taking this one step further by using artificial intelligence (AI). This is now working on desktop and mobile phones. “It uses just a browser and it is based on WebVR. Integration to some knowledge/maintenance systems is needed to provide more good solutions,” said Mr Karaila.
"It has huge potential and will not just offer standard solutions"
Explaining the benefits, he said “It can answer and understand questions, can help operators with maintenance, store information and offer solutions. It has huge potential and will not just offer the standard solution. Problem solving is faster and more pro-active.”
The AI can be tailored to suit different levels, from being customer-specific to a general global solution.
The new technology offers opportunities for training, too. Operators can practice the automation system or services virtually beforehand saving time and money, and the training can be repeated as many times as needed. Travel costs are eliminated and operators can be educated in their own environment.
Valmet emphasised that its AR and AI solutions were especially relevant to cruise ships, which have to operate around the clock when at sea. This makes vessel maintenance and the ability to handle unexpected problems and failures very important. “At sea, far away from port, a technical error can have a major impact on the vessel operation.
Guidance on what maintenance actions need to be taken for getting the ship to the required operation level again can play a vital role for a fast restoration,” Valmet said.
• Augmented reality (AR) means technology where virtual components, such as graphics and images, interact with the real environment. AR is used with tablets or smart phones. The user interacts with the digital images and graphics.