More than a buzzword: The internet of things, as in connected devices and items, is gaining popularity in companies. Accenture, as one of the biggest consulting agencies worldwide is always working with the latest tech, and just began to put a strong focus on the 'Industrial Internet of Things': Connecting devices in manufacturing, R&D and sales, to drive efficiency, productivity and turnover. Accenture built an own Industrial Lab in Munich to showcase the newest IoT use-cases. A huge hall filled with awesome high-tech, in which customers can work on their ideas and see how new IoT applications could be implemented in their businesses.
Inside the factory of the future
On the border of Munich Accenture just recently build a lab which is dedicated to one thing: The Industrial Internet of Things. To give customers and visitors an even better feeling for the implementations Accenture decided to design the lab to look like an actual factory. We were welcomed by an Accenture Consultant who guided us in a massive hall, which was equipped with cool IoT prototypes and models. This didn't feel like the regular presentation about a product, we felt like we were thrown into the factory of the future, and just got the chance to get a glimpse what could be the industry standard in 5 years.
Buying a BMW i8 in VR
After a quick presentation about Accenture we could get in touch with exciting IIoT technology accenture is working with. We started with a VR car configuration tool which allows customers to configure and modify their dream car in real size, and even stepping in and out of it, as well as to drive it around. One of the students quickly took the chance to change the colors of his BMW i8, a 120.000€ hybrid sports-car. The technology, which is not in the car shops just yet, got a smile on every student's face. Seeing this application of IoT, in addition to the theoretical lectures of the program, was very inspiring.
Miniature smart factory line
Off to the next smart IIoT use-case of Accenture. A miniature model of a smart connected factory line to showcase all the steps and the connectivity of the different parts of the line. Professor Brehm, lecturer of the course 'Digital Technology Management: Products, Processes and Systems' took the chance to experience the smart factory line first hand: The small robot, which loaded the miniature blocks for the line is just an example how this concept could be used in real life. And unlike real factory robots, this little guy stopped when Prof. Brehm got too close to the factory line.
More than cool tech-toys: Augmented Reality and Smart Wearables in the industry 4.0
Another successful proof of concept of Accenture, which is already in practice for big companies like BMW is a smart wearable glove, which helps factory workers with their pick-by light techniques by having a scanner directly in the glove, versus using a scanner which has to be picked up and put away every single time. By using the glove workers can save 1-2 seconds each pick. Add that up to 100.000 of workers and you have an impressive value for a big company.
Looking at the smiles of the students gave a clue which was the most imposing IIoT application of Accenture's IIoT lab in Munich: Augmented Reality holo lenses, which help factory workers in assembling parts to complex machines. With these lenses, which augment illustrations to a machine part, assembling can be made easier, faster, and in some cases just possible at all. For instance, unskilled workers could be instructed by the AR-glasses, how a machine needs to be assembled. By this, travelling time from skilled assembling technicians could be saved for instance.
The group was amazed how intuitive Professor Brehm was able to assemble cables to a model, with the instructions of the holo lense, guiding him step-by-step through the whole assembling process. Quickly discussions came up how this technology could be used in real life.
Brainstorming and Networking
The tour through Accenture's IIoT lab ended with a short networking session where students could talk about the impressive technology they just witnessed. In company of multiple Accenture consultants the students took the chance to talk about their projects from the program, where one was dedicated to IoT. Quickly business cards were exchanged and some students acquired prospects for interviews from industry experts for essays they were working on.