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How to Choose the Right Hardware for your Remote Service Operations

Selecting the right hardware for remote service and support can seem daunting. Some options are handheld or wearable. Where to start depends on the situation and use case. However, in any use case, there are several factors to consider before selecting.

Form Vs. Function

Not every device out there has had Field Service in mind when being created. Some have aftermarket adjustments like sturdy cases or add-ons to help make them more rugged or usable for field workers. Thinking about the form versus function can help users determine the best fit for them and their tasks. Not all cool tech makes sense as a tool for industry rather than entertainment purposes.

When considering wearables, smart glasses rather than head-mounted tablets (HMT) are much more likely to be consumer-focused and therefore not be successful for field implementation. Users who plan to use these tools in the field should focus on enterprise devices (more likely, head-mounted tablets). These industry-designed tools have proven ROI with real use cases. Enterprise places the importance of function over form, so while they may not look as sleek as consumer electronics, they will be much more useful and applicable to the tasks at hand.

 
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Dr. Chris Parkinson
CTO and founder of RealWear

“Consumer devices will always prioritize form over function, while the enterprise will deliver function over form.”

Binocular vs. Monocular

Wearables are categorized into several categories, but more commonly binocular or monocular. Binocular means two eyes are being engaged with technology, whereas monocular is a display over one eye.

Binocular devices are used for true Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR), a graphic display overlaid on the real world. While it helps to immerse a user into a scenario or engage with a digital asset, it can cause spatial awareness issues. This impediment of spatial awareness is a significant safety risk for particular use cases, including Rail Cargo Group. A case study focusing on remote support with head-mounted devices (HMD) stated that safety was a significant factor when determining a hardware device.

Monocular devices are set up more like a rearview mirror in a car where a user glances up or down at information and then back at their task. The screens are non-obtrusive, and many are adjustable between dominant eyes, depth perception placement, etc. The monocular devices are called Assisted Reality (also AR) and are more of a visual aid like a tablet or smartphone screen with pictures, videos, and text rather than a digital overlay on the real world.

There are many devices in both categories, but here are some you may have heard of:

Binocular devices Monocular devices
Microsoft HoloLens 2 RealWear HMT-1
Vuzix Blade Vuzix M400
Epson Moverio Google Glass EE2
Third Eye Toshiba Dyna Edge

Hands-fee vs. Gesture and Touch Control

Each head-mounted device, whether monocular or binocular, are controlled through different means. Hand gestures (Microsoft HoloLens 2), touch control in the form of buttons or a tracking pad (Google Glass EE2, and Vuzix M400), or voice control (RealWear HMT-1). Some devices also have multiple options such as voice control and buttons or tracking pad (Vuzix, Google, Epson).

If users need to have their hands available for holding tools, climbing equipment, or other tasks, a voice-activated tool may be the best fit. While some tools focus on moving to paperless (to tablet) head-mounted devices argue moving away from tablets to being hands-free. A proven device that uses vocal commands even in loud mechanical or environmental settings is necessary to be truly hands free.
Besides offering hands-free control, the device needs to have a noise reduction and clear voice recognition. RealWear HMT-1 device, for example, has a 98% success rate with regards to voice recognition while in a 95db environment. 95db is quite loud; for reference, it is the output of a motorcycle engine starting.

Also, speaker rejection is a feature that can be helpful so that the device does not pick up the voices of others in the proximity of the user but rather only takes directions from its primary user. The RealWear HMT-1 also has this application with rejection is possible at a distance of just 30 cm. Finally, multiple language recognition can set apart a device and help finalize the decision on which hardware is the best fit for an organization.

Compatibility with PPE

Field Service environments also require different personal protective equipment depending on the task of the frontline worker. Hardhats, facemasks, safety glasses, and ear protection are common additions to a technician’s wardrobe.

How to Choose the Right Hardware for your Remote Service Operations

RealWear’s HMT-1 device, for instance, is currently configurable with 30 different types of protective headwear, and often manufacturers will be able to create a solution if one is not already available.

Ruggedness

For using a device around dust and moisture, it must have a rating of IP66. This rating is only available on two models of HMD, the RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1.

Devices created for field environments use must ensure longevity with expected heavy use. A device’s ruggedness may not be the first thing thought of when shopping around for remote support devices, but it becomes clear quickly after opening the HMDs and starting to use them the first day on the job.

Even the most careful users may drop or bump their devices. The elements like rain, wind, and dust can also affect the user without any fault. Dealing with these daily aspects is the reality of fieldwork. The RealWear HMT-1 is not only dust and water-resistant but can also be dropped from standing height and not be affected. This extremely ruggedized device was made again, with the workers in mind, wishing to support them without wasting their time for concern of daily care for the device.

Tether or No Tether

Finally, tethering determines how a battery is attached, stored, or how the computing power is connected. In some cases, the CPU and the battery are stored in the piece mounted on the head. In other options, the CPU and/or the battery are separate and require a holster or pocket to remain connected.

Tethering (having the CPU or battery separate) takes a lot of weight off the device worn on the head and maybe more ergonomic. Untethered devices may have a weight that causes fatigue and exhaustion for the wearer’s ears, head, or neck. However, tethering causes safety concerns of being caught on machinery, endangering the user, or just disconnecting the device.

Weight is only an issue in specific designs that rest heavily on the nose, ears, or where the weight is not evenly distributed. The RealWear HMT-1 has a very balanced approach and comfortable design. It is also not very heavy at only 380 grams. This untethered device then makes an excellent choice for those who cannot have cables catching on equipment or want to make sure their stream is uninterrupted from becoming unplugged.

Conclusion

After reviewing the different elements of hardware for remote support service it becomes clear that the RealWear HMT-1 is the best choice for Field Service technicians.

The RealWear head-mounted tablet was designed with enterprises in mind, placing its function over its form. Additionally, as a monocular device it is less obtrusive and much more adjustable, ensuring a safer spatial awareness for the user. The hands-free element also adds to the safety of the device allowing users to carry tools, climb equipment and focus more closely on their tasks. Finally, this rugged device can handle the elements of outdoor work dealing with dust, water, loud noises, and proximity to others. It also is very adaptable to multiple types of PPE, while remaining tether free.

The RealWear HMT-1 is an all-around best fit for frontline workers.

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Carly Kroll
Director of Education | Content Marketer | Speaker | Educator
Carly Kroll’s diverse background includes education, research, and communication. She is passionate about emerging technologies and their effects on the workforce. She holds a Master’s in Education from National Louis University, and a Master’s in Communication Technology from Marquette University. Carly works daily creating written content about Augmented Reality in Field Service and industrial processes. Her previous experience in the field of AR dealt primarily with improving technology acceptance of Augmented Reality among Utility workers.