The future of manufacturing in the palm of your hand

June 15, 2018

Augmented reality is great, but it can be cumbersome. 

Innovative manufacturers have been bitten by the augmented-reality bug, and that’s a good thing. It is estimated that 19.1 million AR headsets will ship by 2021, up from 1.3 million this year. For manufacturers AR can be a powerful solution to enable:

  • Faster work—Employees can see renderings of bolts, parts, assembly instructions and other information, enabling them to work faster with less initial training.
  • Improved workflow—Shop-floor managers can study the flow of parts into the facility through assembly to reduce inventory and accelerate production.
  • Easier access to plant data—Engineers can rapidly gain access to enterprise resource planning (ERP) and related data to ensure a facility is meeting goals.
  • Reduced maintenance time—Employees can more rapidly complete routine maintenance and improve equipment uptime.
  • Assistance with employee training—Managers can supplement traditional training with more “hands on” experiences to bring new employees online faster. 

AR provides an abundance of information, of course, and it is important that such information is accessible by employees and managers, but not hackers. Security and protection of sensitive assets or information is a major concern for manufacturers—by midway through 2017 cyber-attacks increased 24 percent, with the largest target being the manufacturing industry2. More than a third of the documented cyber-attacks in that first half of the year targeted the manufacturing industry, and experts attribute it to the increase of manufacturers’ use of IoT, robots, and other automation devices.

Sensitive information is often shared with and stored on these devices, which then become targets for cyber-attackers and other bad actors. In order for AR headsets to become a widespread asset for manufacturers, it is important that the device and information remains secure. Manufacturers must be able to control who has access to what information.

AR unlocks new potential for manufacturing, but security is the key

Unlike desktops, AR headsets do not come with a standard keyboard for typing passcodes.  While some AR headsets have controllers and/or software keypads for passcodes, or even provide authentication through smartphone applications, these solutions are not fast enough or secure enough for a manufacturing setting. To authenticate with a controller or phone app, the worker must pull the device out of their pocket to access information, which breaks their concentration and defeats the purpose of an immersive experience.

Biometric authentication offers a user-friendly alternative for passcodes. However most popular biometric solutions among phones are not ideal for augmented-reality headsets. Face and eyes are covered and therefore not available for authentication. Fingerprint scanners require additional hardware built into the headset and blindly swiping, making them inconvenient and error prone.

Palmprint biometrics provides the best answer for AR sign-in

In a hands-on, fast-moving environment such as a manufacturing floor, a simple scan of the palm is a much more efficient authentication solution. Almost all AR headsets have a front-facing camera. When the user places a palm in front of the camera, it can capture pictures of palmprints in a touchless way. The palm is unique and almost impossible to replicate, therefore is a highly secure biometric for authentication.  

Palm-scanning is also convenient, in a situation where a worker is trying to access secure information on the headset all it takes is showing a palm to the camera. Because a front-facing camera is already built into AR headsets, there is also no additional hardware that needs to be installed to the device. Of all the biometric options, palmprint biometrics offer the perfect combination of security and user experience for AR devices.

In today’s environment, keeping sensitive manufacturing-related data in the hands of the right people is important and, in a large manufacturing setting, there is the greater opportunity for hacks and mistakes by employees. Embracing a secure, user friendly way to authenticate the access to sensitive data only increases the benefits of using augmented reality in the manufacturing space.

Leon Laroue is the technical product manager of Moverio Augmented Reality Solutions at Epson. Lenny Kontsevich is the co-founder and chairman of Redrock Biometrics.

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