Augmented reality and telepresence robot: what Orange and Schneider Electric are doing with 5G

Orange and Schneider Electric showed Monday, September 28, 2020 two use cases of 5G. And what better than the showcase factory of Schneider Electric in Industry 4.0, the Vaudreuil site, to deploy these antennas. This factory, created in 1975, has been equipped since March 2020 with a virtualized private network on experimental frequencies. The site, which brings together 360 employees over a little over 14,000 m², has five 5G indoor antennas which cover nearly 2,000 m² in the production area.

In order to quickly and securely manage the data collected, Schneider Electric has equipped itself since 2018 with its own data center renamed “Smart Bunker”. This allows the company to process information locally. Schneider Electric teams have set up an experimental architecture to compartmentalize the data that is processed either locally or in the cloud: before communicating with each other, it goes through a firewall to ensure network security.

Augmented reality to help technicians
“When there is a problem with a machine, the repairman spends 50% of his time looking for what the problem is”, says a manager at Schneider Electric. The company therefore decided to deploy an augmented reality application. The operator, equipped with a smartphone or tablet, connects to the application and points the camera in the direction of the machine. In this case it is a winder, a three-axis robot that collects springs to install them on the machine located next to it.

Via the augmented reality application, the technician can see the temperature of the equipment and access all of its documentation. If that’s not enough to find the root of the problem, they can quickly reach an expert through Microsoft Teams. Video solutions that can be multiplied on the same site, without losing video quality, thanks to 5G.

A telepresence robot

Schneider Electric has also deployed a telepresence robot on this site and plans to perpetuate this experiment. Concretely, this robot takes the form of a robotic arm at the end of which are attached a screen and a camera, which allows a person not present on site to be by videoconference and to be able to move around. For example, the industrial group plans to use this telepresence robot to carry out visits to the Vaudreuil site.

For today’s demonstration, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, CEO of Schneider Electric, took part in the game from Hong Kong. Thanks to its technical characteristics such as very high speed, low latency and security, “5G massively opens up video deployments”, he assures. Schneider Electric is also considering widely deploying augmented reality glasses to allow technicians to be experts on all machines and virtual reality headsets to train operators before they arrive on site.

A more energy efficient technology
“The goal is to replicate these two products and services” tested at the Vaudreuil site, says Jérémie Compan, project manager at Orange. The telecoms operator is already working on the industrialization of these projects, whether on other Schneider Electric sites or to market this type of product to other companies. Other use cases around 5G should also quickly emerge.

One of the promises of this new generation of wireless network is the ability to massively connect objects, since “70 to 80% of the cost of connecting a physical element on a production line or in a building is the cabling”, assures Jean-Pascal Tricoire. As wireless technologies consume a lot of energy, professionals generally prefer wired networks, which are therefore much more expensive, to connect objects.

5G solves this problem by allowing “to increase the flow and reduce energy consumption” allowing “to arrive at a much larger number of connected objects on batteries”. One of the essential points for developing the factory of the future and predictive maintenance solutions. “5G is designed to be energy efficient”, adds Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, who mentions a “gap of 1 to 10 in terms of energy performance per gigabyte of data transported between 4G and 5G”. Elements of responses to the voices raised today against the deployment of 5G in France while the auctions open tomorrow.

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