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Daniel Klein

Augmented Reality Helps US Navy See Clearer

For many augmented reality (AR) technology remains little more than a futuristic looking toy often demonstrated at trade shows. However, for those who have found applications for the maturing technology, its benefits are very real.  Count the US Navy in that group.

AVATAR Partners, an innovator in virtual, augmented and mixed reality (extended reality or XR, collectively) software solutions for heavy-duty industry and defense, has received a contract to provide its Simplified, Intelligent AR Quality Assurance (SIA-QA) solution for the US Navy. The SIA-QA solution will focus on supporting aircraft wiring maintenance for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Boeing V-22 Osprey aircraft. This AR-based, automatic QA system combines instruction and AI-based performance assessment in a single solution to help inspectors rapidly observe "as-is" versus "should be" conditions to speed installation and increase accuracy.

Michael Davis, technical director, AVATAR Partners, tells IndustryWeek, the dynamic and highly variable nature of the inspection environment brings challenges to implementing object and photo recognition to determine discrepancies in aircraft harness installation. “These variances in the environment could include different lighting conditions, personnel and support equipment movement and multiple aircraft configurations,” says Davis. “Understanding the expected boundaries of the environment within the AR experience will allow the solution to capture and adjust through the use of machine learning.” 

Maintainer errors can be highly expensive or life threatening. Moreover, time-to-maintain is often insufficient to support aircraft readiness. The AVATAR Partners SIA-QA solution includes refresher training for aircraft maintenance technicians who have completed tours of duty away from the system for which they were trained. "We are pleased to have the opportunity of helping to improve aircraft readiness through on-demand technician training that provides knowledge at the point of need," said AVATAR Partners CEO and Founder Marlo Brooke. "Applying military-grade augmented reality provides the resources needed to establish critical training regimens that support a risk-managed framework for preparation and deployment."

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FedEx SenseAware

Time for Tracking to Improve?

Whenever a vaccine is ready for distribution to the global population, its distribution is sure to create an entirely new batch of challenges. Accurate tracking that goes beyond the traditional scanning that many logistics providers leverage will prove instrumental, especially as security concerns surface. 

To combat these challenges FedEx recently announced the launch of SenseAware ID, a lightweight sensor-based logistics device that delivers a new level of precision tracking. The enhanced location visibility provided by this technology will create opportunities for FedEx customers to reimagine their supply chain through real-time updates on a package’s location within the FedEx Express network. SenseAware ID will improve the safety, security and timeliness of deliveries – key attributes for packages that contain critical contents such as life-saving pharmaceuticals and emergency medical supplies.

The detailed location data provided by SenseAware ID is a critical differentiator for healthcare industry customers, and FedEx expects to use this new technology with anticipated COVID-19 vaccine shipments. The rollout of SenseAware ID is well-timed as FedEx continues to move life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for healthcare customers throughout the U.S.

“Package tracking and visibility are more important now than ever, as businesses have become increasingly reliant on timely deliveries,” said Robert B. Carter, executive vice president and chief information officer, FedEx Corporation. “Created by our innovation teams at FedEx, SenseAware ID was designed to give our customers the precise level of tracking they’ve been looking for, enabling them to optimize their supply chains and make any necessary adjustments during the journey of their shipments.”

Sense AwareFedEx SenseAwareFedEx has long been a pioneer in sensor-based logistics, providing advanced tracking of urgent and high value shipments for over a decade through its proprietary SenseAware portfolio. SenseAware ID is the latest innovation in FedEx sensor technology, designed to make sensor-based logistics more accessible to FedEx customers.

SenseAware ID uses a lightweight, compact sensor that transmits precise package location data every two seconds via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to WiFi access points or established gateway devices throughout the FedEx Express network. Packages equipped with the SenseAware ID sensor are tracked hundreds of times versus dozens of times with traditional package scanning protocols, which provides an unprecedented amount of real-time data about the location of the shipment.

As part of the initial roll-out, SenseAware ID sensors are being applied to First Overnight shipments within the U.S. domestic FedEx Express network. An initial round of customers in the healthcare, aerospace and retail industries will receive access to the enhanced data in November 2020. FedEx expects to expand access to this precision location data to additional customers throughout the first half of 2021. SenseAware ID will eventually be made available for a broad range of premium FedEx Express services.

The enhanced package visibility data provided by SenseAware ID will give FedEx healthcare customers the opportunity to closely monitor and proactively protect shipments using additional FedEx healthcare services, including cold-chain storage, thermal blankets and temperature controlled containers. SenseAware ID is expected to play a critical role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines using the FedEx First Overnight service, helping ensure these sensitive shipments are delivered quickly and safely.