Dec 11, 2015 • FeaturesAerospacecontext awaremobile appswearablesERPIFS

In Part One of this feature, Brendan Viggers, head of product and sales support at IFS Aerospace & Defence Centre of Excellence, explained the potential of  Wearables and Context Aware technology to transform various maintenance and servicing tasks in the Aerospace and Defence sector. In Part Two, he explains why  Context Aware apps will be critical in delivering ROI and user satisfaction in wearables.

With device development enabling us to monitor activity in more detail, user context-awareness is being included in consumer devices to an ever-increasing degree. Imagine what could be achieved if technologies like cameras and the Kinect - a motion-sensing input device by Microsoft for the Xbox One video game console - were included in appliances and devices in your base maintenance facility or field location.

Recognising where people are and what they do will enable designers to create attentive applications that look at what is going on and react appropriately. For example, teleporting - sometimes called “follow- me” computing - is a tool available today to dynamically map the user interface onto the resources of the surrounding computer and communication facilities in office complexes.

Making applications more social and user friendly through context-aware wearable technology will surely be the way forward.

In a maintenance environment, this could be adapted so that relevant applications can 'follow' a worker moving around maintenance locations or even different equipment and process bays in an aircraft, and be available as required. The maintenance station will recognise which member of your maintenance team is going to use it based on identity tag or even body profile, and pre-select that person’s authorised maintenance or repair task schedules. If directly linked to equipment health monitors, it could automatically add high priority preventative maintenance tasks to a repair schedule being undertaken in the same location.


So What?

CCS Insight predict that there will be up to 100million smartphone companions such as smartwatches by 2017. Research from Business Insider Intelligence indicates the global wearables market will grow at an annual compound rate of 35 percent over the next five years.

The advance of wearable technology seems unstoppable, but it isn't a new revolution - witness the use of emergency buttons to call for help after a fall. Its deployment has simply taken off over the past few years. We all understand that wearable blood glucose, heart rate, blood pressure monitors can help people stay healthier for longer. In Aerospace and Defence, future wearable technology must be demonstrably useful - both needed and wanted. To be wanted, we have got to have valuable applications that will benefit wearables and be contextually aware - only then can we truly demonstrate a real return on investment that warrants change and adoption of the technology.

Empowerment and the future with wearables

The key to this is not so much wearables, but the context aware applications that are accessed by or loaded onto them. Making applications more social and user friendly through context-aware wearable technology will surely be the way forward. Mobile applications, as a front end to powerful enterprise platforms, can be developed and made context aware in very short order.

Our experience shows that it is possible to develop and deliver mobile applications specific to a user’s requirements often in weeks rather than the traditional ERP software application that takes months or even years to deploy. In the forward space these apps must be optimised with functionality for the engineer depending on the operational environment. Overloading an engineer with full IS solution functionality doesn't make sense.

Mobile apps offer a solution to the problem of gaining essential feedback of operational information without inundating the engineer - they must be task-specific, in a recognisable format, optimised for specific equipment, easy to customise and devoid of superfluous overhead. The ability to add operational data relating to flight, crew and vehicle in real-time adds real value to ERP.

IFS is currently deploying a range of mobile apps, the next step would be to port mobile apps on to a wearable device that is sufficiently context aware so automatically records when and where a fault is logged – saving valuable time by negating the need for the engineer to 'down tools' in order to log on to a laptop or handheld device to gain access to back-office information.

Innovative wearable technology has matured over the past decades from 'fall monitors' to truly interactive, context aware support tools. We can give operators direct support at their fingertips, in their ears or in front of their eyes, and also intimately understand the challenges they are facing. The development of hardware and sensors to 'socialise' the technology is about to take off, but these are really just delivery and input points for information that allows context-tailored applications to link users to powerful enterprise processes.

The immediate benefits of delivering powerful computer support directly to users, and capturing contextual information to improve enterprise-level knowledge offers exciting opportunities in the immediate future to streamline MRO activity and allow supply chains to get ahead of the game.

IFS is at the forefront of integrating innovative wearable and context aware technology with an agile Aerospace and Defence ERP application which streamlines support and, critically, reduces costly operational downtime. The result is aircraft spend more time in the air with maintenance support tailored to suit any environment, at any time.



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