Our client SBB, the national railway company of Switzerland, supports 1.25 million daily passengers and is responsible for almost 98% of the rail cargo and passenger traffic nationwide. The Gotthard Base Tunnel, with its 57 Km length is the world's longest and deepest railway tunnel. As such, the components behind this major work are of significant dimension: 308 km of rails, 178 crosscuts between the 2 tunnels with 2500 electrical cabinets, 10’000 lights, 2’600 km of fibre optic cables, 900 balises (ETCS) and 360 axle counters.
The operation and maintenance of the Gotthard base tunnel yearly costs almost 40 million CHF and involves 150 internal and external specialists. The client is seeking to enhance the maintenance quality and reduce the costs of its infrastructure by digitalizing its processes and offering instant knowledge and video support to its employees.
Open Web Technology was approached to support the targeted digitization and industrialization with the help of Augmented Reality (AR).
Open Web Technology's team, together with the client, defined a three-step approach to turn this vision into reality:
1. Blueprint and use cases
By means of workshops in close cooperation with the project sponsor, our team was able to delimit the scope of the project, and translate the need into functionalities and requirements for two representative use cases:
- Maintenance of the electrical cabinets and other objects through workflow instructions and checklists followed by an automatic generation of the summary reports.
- Troubleshooting: simplified contact and interaction with the corresponding Center of Competence through interactive video support.
2. Development and technology
Following the identification of the use cases and functional specifications, Open Web Technology used its agile methodology to design and develop a custom Augmented Reality (AR) based solution for the execution of workflows, checklists and video support processes. The app was developed for Microsoft Hololens and for Smartphone. The Augmented Reality app allows the technician to overlay information over his environment through the Hololens headset and to accomplish the workflow tasks handsfree. In addition to these processes, the smartphone app enables the technician to receive video support from external professionals who can interact by freezing the camera, drawing directly on screen and providing real time instructions.
3. On site testing
In order to validate the hypothesis and the impact of our solution, several tests have been conducted directly on site with the technicians in the Gotthard Base Tunnel. Following the onboarding of the employees, the tests have been carried out over several days on different locations and objects.
Moreover, we conducted several interviews to collect insights on the ordinary tasks and the benefits or challenges the technicians might encounter with smart assistance.
As proof of concept, and in less than 2 months, SBB, with the help of Open Web Technology, was able to build an Augmented Reality based solution that optimizes significantly his maintenance and support processes within the Gotthard Base Tunnel.
In all the identified use cases such as the execution of workflows, checklists, automated reports and the troubleshooting video support, both the HoloLens and the smartphone apps demonstrated the added value of the solution to support the targeted digitization - by means of process automation, increasing efficiency, reducing errors, increasing employee polyvalence or easier access to expert knowledge.
Finally, the employee high adoption rate confirms to SBB the great value of Augmented Reality as an empowering technology for digitization.