Project Logistics 2030 (Part 5 of a 6-part series)

5 AR use cases to expect in the next 10 years

Part 5 – Mixed Reality: Welcome to the Breakbulk Holodeck

by Leonid Poliakov, Joerg Breker and Sven Hermann

Will mixed reality revolutionize project logistics in the upcoming decade? After being removed from Gartner’s innovation cycle in 2019 one thing became clear - Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that is here to stay. Currently the global augmented reality (AR) market is on the way of an exponential growth spurt. Coming from estimated $16,8bn in 2019, the segment is predicted to reach $160bn in 2023 and will touch almost every aspect our lives and businesses.

But already in the last 10 years, AR has brought significant benefits for enterprises and industries around the globe. Since the very beginning of its rise, logistics has been a key industry where lasting process improvements, error rate decreases and enhanced ergonomics have been leveraged through AR and wearable computing technology. Vision picking as one of the most prominent use cases, could deliver best in class results within intra-logistics processes like order picking, inventory, incoming and outgoing goods. Benefitting from ergonomic hands-free operations, many logistics companies added additional AR processes already within their supply chain like documentation, remote auditing, training, inspection or remote support.

But what’s next? Wouldn’t it be great to improve the reliability, efficiency, effectiveness, and security of freight packaging, transportation and site material supply and beam project logistics up to a next level? AR allows providing the right information at the right time and in the right place by adding virtual layers of contextual information onto a heads-up display using a mobile device all along the supply chain.

It has the potential to optimize supply chains in areas like completeness checks, damage detection, packaging, freight loading in containers and on vessels, international trade (facilitate trade documentation and international freight handling) and in-site logistics like warehousing and provisioning of materials for assembling.

Integrated in existing IT landscapes AR will act as an interface allowing bi-directional communication connecting “internet of humans” with the “internet of things”.  Just some AR use cases that we will see in the next 10 years:
  1. Binocular & immersive mixed Reality experience on ergonomic smart glasses will allow to highlight content direct in the field of view of the worker
  2. Digital twin of the logistics equipment can be visualized from anywhere in the world allowing access, control and maintenance of the machine even from remote
  3. AR being the connecting interface between the worker and the machines, sensors and things will allow visualizing context relevant content in the field of view when its needed 
  4. Boxes can be scanned / recognized and relevant information (danger goods, weight, type of good, etc.) can be displayed immediately and even translated if necessary
  5. Combining 3D depth sensors and artificial intelligence loading processes will be optimized significantly by using holograms on smart glasses
AR definitely has the power to change the way we see project logistics and breakbulk business. It will become an essential part of our daily operations and will fundamentally change how we perceive information and interact using an AR device, a mobile device or maybe just an intelligent contact lens in the future. Forward looking companies like PTS Logistics Group years ago developed a first prototype with SMS Group and Ubimax for using AR especially in packaging. Now is the right time to switch from holodeck and testing to look at reality in new ways and start implementing successful use cases.

In the 6th and last part of our series we will concluding ask different experts about their outlook for 2021 and number one and potentially disruptive technology for this decade.

About the authors

Leonid Poliakov is vice president business development for Ubimax - A Teamviewer Company.
Dr. Joerg Breker is senior executive expert logistics for thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions.
Prof. Dr. Sven Hermann is managing director of ProLog Innovation and professor for logistics and supply chain management at NBS Northern Business School.

Extras: See parts 1-4 of the Logistics 2030 series:

Part 1: Sven Hermann's advice for companies aiming to be future-proof
Part 2: Ready for the future? Single platforms, online tenders and more
Part 3: Blockchain, a new level of efficiency in breakbulk business
Part 4: 5G and IoT: Is Everything Going Remote in Breakbulk Business?
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