One of the drawbacks to maintenance in ICT systems in South Africa is the distance involved in providing energy, information and communication to a large country with diverse urban and rural needs. Added to this is the necessity of skilled operators being available to meet these needs timeously before emergencies develop.

According to George Senzere, pre-sales manager Anglophone ITD Global at Schneider Electric South Africa, Augmented Reality (AR) may be able to close these gaps and provide the needed expertise by bringing a new level of productivity to a wide range of tasks.

“In the field, facilities professionals have to be prepared to solve a wide variety of problems across a wide spectrum of equipment and to do so quickly and completely. AR enables you to enhance the expertise of engineers on-site, using expert help and guided procedures to increase the accuracy of work. This can increase personnel safety while avoiding human error, saving potential disruption and a lot of costs,” he explains.

“The technology is maturing and expanding rapidly, and the AR market is expected to grow from $11.14 billion in 2018 to $60.55 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 40.29%, according to a report by US researchers Markets and Markets.

“AR has powerful potential for colocation data centre service providers by joining the dots connecting data centre infrastructure management to maintenance and service operations. Today, Schneider Electric is incorporating AR technology into its EcoStruxure for Data Centers architecture and has been showcasing this capability at recent industry events.”

FILLING URGENT NEEDS

The use of AR in data centre service and maintenance fills two urgent needs.

  • Ensuring uptime

According to the Uptime Global Data Center survey 2018, almost half of those responding to researchers had experienced a network failure during the last three years. Coming at a time when data centres are becoming more efficient, it represents a large fraction of the whole and a trend that needs to be curbed.

  • Dealing with complex architectures and availability of qualified staff

Two primary reasons for the apparent increase in the number of failures have emerged. They are the complexity of hybrid data centre architectures and the difficulty in retaining and training qualified staff.

BRIDGING THE COLOCATION SKILLS GAP

“With AR, you can train people before sending them to site,” continues Senzere. “They can experiment on the virtual model, make mistakes and see the impact, all from the safety of the training room. It means they are better prepared when they go to the site. If there is any doubt, they can access a remote operator to gain ‘see-what-I see’ guidance from off-site specialists to ensure the right equipment is getting the correct attention.

“Digital enhancement, provided by AR, enables a field operative to look at a virtual rendering of the facility side-by-side with the physical environment, superimposing process steps and data from management software in live workflow situations. Facilities personnel are, literally, able to see what’s going on inside equipment enclosures without opening any doors.

“It will also enable the user to add points of interest – pieces of equipment, which need to be regularly maintained or inspected. Using the app, the operator can build up a picture of the device including its web address, context-specific documentation, live information, current information, and the equipment logbook, which can all be accessed and displayed at any time using the smartphone in his or her pocket.

“EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor puts real-time information at an operator’s fingertips, whenever and wherever it is needed. The custom application improves operational efficiency, enabling operators to superimpose the current data and virtual objects onto a cabinet, machine, or plant. At Schneider Electric, we are ready to offer this future technology to solve today’s problems,” concludes Senzere.