Remote Mentor and Hands-Free Wearable Computing is an Angel on Your Shoulder
A few months ago, we caught up with Jereme Pitts, Chief Operating Officer of Librestream Technologies, Inc. In this educational spotlight you will learn about:
Why don’t we kick it off by telling us a bit about your company Librestream?
Librestream was started over 10 years ago with a goal to connect the “deskless worker” (remote worker) in the most extreme environments to their teams back at HQ. These workers were in hard-to-reach locations (think tarmacs, remote factories, and offshore oil rigs). As you can imagine, getting a signal, be it Wi-Fi, satellite or even cellular, was extremely difficult. Smartphones didn’t exist at that point, so we started from ground zero. We developed a solution that would connect these people virtually via video, which included both the software known as Onsight Connect and the first rugged smart camera.
We have expanded the Onsight solution dramatically since then. We’ve digitized the worker’s day with new capabilities including integration with wearable computers such as the RealWear HMT-1, Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities and the ability to share live visuals from legacy video devices during a collaboration session. Finally, the system includes a content management system and even more products further down our roadmap.
That is one of the value propositions for RealWear as well. That type of environment. So why don’t we dive into your product first; or the one you’d like to feature, in this conversation.
At the very core, our solution helps the worker complete their job. The heart of the solution is software called Onsight Connect. Onsight gives teams the ability to connect with a remote mentor any time. Since the software can be loaded onto almost any endpoint, be it a smartphone, tablet, our smart cameras or hands-free wearable computers like the RealWear headset, it really becomes a solution any enterprise can adopt quickly into its digitized ecosystem.
To put it in perspective, imagine a gas turbine engine that runs the power generator on an oil rig. Maintenance was scheduled because it’s reached a certain hour threshold. So, you head out to the location with your intrinsically safe RealWear headset loaded with Onsight. You look at what’s going on and dial in your remote experts.
At this point, there are two common scenarios our customers experience while in a collaboration session with a remote expert. They’re saying, “Hey, this is complex and I need help,” or they’re saying, “I need a digital engineer to sign off,” because some inspections you just can’t complete without a signature from a level three engineer.
On an oil rig, you’re probably using satellite or very low bandwidth for communication and that has an entire workflow around how you connect to that person and solve problems, how you archive all that content and how, at the end of the day, you shrink the time to either repair it or assess corrective actions.
What’s the pain point that a customer is experiencing in, say, an oil and gas rig that your product basically either alleviates or eliminates?
The verticals we focus on are aviation, energy including oil and gas, heavy equipment manufacturing and field service. Heavy equipment manufacturing can be anything from an ATM to a gigantic tractor–and everything in between.
Say you’re on an oil and gas rig. The power generation unit is down and needs immediate servicing. When that happens, it can cost between $1-3.5 million dollars per day.
The operator of that rig is now saying, “I’m losing $1-3 million dollars a day because the power generation for drilling is down.” If you can get the unit back up and running quickly, that’s a really, really big deal.
Now pretend that I put you on a plane. I get you to the rig as fast as possible. You have your tools, you get a helicopter; you fly over to that rig and you start to fix the unit. It may cost $25,000 to get you there, but the bigger cost is the million-dollar downtime cost associated with the delay.
We have an example of one of our customers in oil and gas who has quantified the time they save in these types of scenarios. They are one of the world’s largest maintenance and service companies and have seen improvements in uptime of up to 90 percent, which is tremendous. This might sound too good to be true, but these aren’t our numbers; the numbers are theirs.
When you’re in a regulated industry you have that engineering problem I was telling you about earlier. You have to involve your engineers. Now they can get a virtual team in place using the HMT-1s and Onsight software. They can make those decisions in real time eliminating the standing around time, which has the highest impact on costs. They can eliminate up to 90 percent of the time it takes to perform difficult tasks.
I gave you the example of sending you to the location at $25,000 “all-in”. The HMT-1 and our solution pays for itself by avoiding those costs. You could make an ROI just based on travel.
But, like I said, our customers, because of the verticals we work in, actually don’t care about $25,000. They care about the $1M-$3.5M. You can save 90 percent of that time in some situations.
Just so our customers are clear, did you say 90 percent efficiency or reduction in man hours?
A 90% reduction in time to resolution. What a lot of organizations are thinking about is how can I do more for my customers, how can I differentiate myself from my competitors? One way they can differentiate is by accelerating issue resolution time, which is often more important to their customers than improvements in response time.
Right. Do you have an ROI calculator that you offer people to see the true cost savings or how do they do that? Do they do that on their own?
Yes, we do. We work with our customers to understand all the different hard and soft line items to calculate ROI. Our customers are solving more than just the breakdowns; they are looking at how they can use remote mentoring to meet SLAs, reduce training time of their newer employees, retain knowledge as their workforce shrinks and many more pain points that could have me talking for days.
As you know, there are a lot of companies in the wearable space, some further along than others. We saw that RealWear had a strong team and a working, real technology. RealWear was aligned to our strongest verticals, had a common goal and the ability to pull it off, far beyond the ‘wouldn’t it be cool’ phase of tech startups.
Right off the bat, at the first meeting, we felt RealWear had the ability to deliver, mostly because of the team’s deep experience and how they approached the product. Then, we looked at the product and understood how the form factor and voice-driven approach would fit within our customer base.
We tested that at RealWear’s annual customer event. We put together a proof of concept (POC) solution to demonstrate to the attendees. The solution was a great fit and from there we’ve been working with RealWear to create a seamless experience with Onsight on the headsets. Our latest release further integrated the Onsight software with HMT-1 and incorporates new products we released into the market this last quarter, such as Workspace.
Let’s go back to the size of the problem as it’s quite challenging to characterize it properly, with all of these things happening at once.
As I mentioned before, it’s more than the typical “I have an asset down” issue. I have broken it down into some buckets to get a better understanding of where you could use remote mentoring.
In the first bucket, we have the “expertise shortage issue”. In every industry you have people retiring at a rate that they can’t hire fast enough. There is this panic because workers with 20 – 30 years of experience in some cases are now leaving with all the knowledge they’ve built over the years of travelling and servicing problems on location. How do you capture this knowledge so your organization isn’t left in the dust when everyone retires? How do you quickly train new people coming on with this knowledge?
Having an angel on your shoulder using Onsight on the RealWear HMT-1 is a proven way to address this issue. This new set of workers are used to newer technologies and expect to work with technology they already use. The hands-free augmented experience meets these expectations, but also creates a situation to start solving the issue of knowledge retention by using Workspace to record and capture knowledge.
Another bucket is increasing operational demands and the global nature of people’s business now, and the complexity of equipment. Digital transformation not only changes processes but the complexity of assets. If you look at assets from 50 years ago and compare them to their equivalent now, the complexity of the asset is something the workers back then would not even be able to imagine.
In the last bucket, which I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in the last 12 months, is our customers’ customers are making demands that are changing service business models at a pace they never thought would happen. The easiest example is “power by the hour” on aircraft engines. So, power by the hour was created where they said, “Hey, instead of paying for the engine and paying a support contract, we’ll give you the engine somewhere around cost. Then when the engine is on the plane and it works, you pay us. When it doesn’t work, we don’t get paid.
The benefit to the manufacturer was an increase in revenue if they perform versus the price for the engine plus the old service contract. They get cost for the engine, but then they get more money and service revenue if the engine performs. So they’re saying I can actually increase my overall topline revenue. And the airlines are saying, “If you guarantee me this product is working, I can fill those seats.” Now I have a business model that works for me because I can’t run a business if that plane’s down.
So that happened years and years ago, and we are now seeing service organizations of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), elevators, or companies that are in huge industrial paper products being advised by their customers, “I’m no longer going to give you a support contract. I expect you to have better uptime than you’ve ever had with your products. And, oh by, the way, if you don’t meet my requirements, I’m not going to consider you. I’m going to consider your competitor for my next project, and given all that, I want to cap the overall dollars that I’m going to pay you.”
There are these immensely complex issues coming from customers. I feel really strongly about this topic after discussions I’ve had with executives at heavy equipment manufacturing, all aspects of aviation, oil and gas, who all shake their heads and say, “You couldn’t be more right. Our customers are demanding more of us than they’ve ever demanded before.”
So those three buckets of things – the complexity of products, new demands from customers, and losing this tremendous amount of data from people retiring while having to bring new people on. There is a big market for solving these problems or solving portions of these problems.
I can definitely see that. And I’m getting pretty excited just thinking about all the possibilities and opportunities for customers. I want to ask you a side question about mentioning something I hadn’t ever heard before, which is this idea of an “angel on your shoulder.” Can you talk a little bit about what that means to you?
I’ll give you a real-world example. We have a customer that’s in industrial manufacturing and they have a very large field service organization. Their problem was it would take three years for someone to be able to solve all the problems in the field. But they have a 35 percent turnover rate per year. When they bring a new employee in, by the time they make it to the three-year mark, you can imagine the funnel is tight at the top end; now think about a reverse funnel.
What they’ve been doing for years and years is they take a senior person and pair him or her with a junior person for nine months. And imagine now you have what they call the four-legged support call with two people going to that support call for nine months, and you don’t just have two people, you have your best person.
One of them is your best possible person, the senior tech. They were able to take our technology and essentially drive that down to five months. So instead of nine months it was five months and then the junior person could call the senior person and, like an angel on their shoulder, essentially say, “I’ve run into this situation. We didn’t talk about this in the five months. How should I handle this?” And they can see everything, as if they were standing shoulder to shoulder, and see and hear everything that they’re experiencing. The cost savings were strong, but they were also excited just to be able to support their customers well.
When RealWear and Librestream go into the marketplace and talk to people, there’s a lot of people just saying, “My business is dependent on supporting customers. If you guys can help us solve problems faster that’s a big deal.” But what happens when you get into a situation where you can take your senior guy and put him back into the field and get four more months of productivity out of them. You can measure that in tens of millions of dollars.
So that angel on the shoulder idea – you can take a senior person, put them behind a desk and they can service and manage at scale. Be an angel on the shoulder for ten junior techs. You can see you get massive economies of scale if you can do something like that!
Do these senior experts, these angels, do they sit there at their desks all day and this is what they do? Or is this a part-time role for them?
Both. In the example that I’m giving, those senior people are out in the field. They would do remote-to-remote, but we have other customers that literally take their senior guy and they say, “You’re tired of traveling, you’re close to retirement…instead of retiring, let’s do something else. Let’s put you in headquarters, let’s pair you with 10 people in the field and you can help them solve their problems.” So now think about what that does, that whole silver tsunami, not being able to hire fast enough. You can have someone that looks over their work, so you can ensure the quality of work is done right the first time.
Often, you’ll see your first-time fix rates go through the roof in a positive way because you’ve got multiple sets of eyes looking at this, and you’ve got your best people able to look in on these junior people. So, it’s both really.
We have customers who call an angel in the field while others have a centralized customer support model where these senior guys support 10 or 20 field people.
How often are people pulling up the remote mentor application and using it on a day to day basis? Is this technology sitting on a shelf or is it being used regularly? How do you track the use of it?
We have customers using Onsight every day on multiple devices. Some customers use the technology on a case-by case basis, but what we are seeing a lot of lately is the use of Onsight every day. Through our Training department, we work with our customers to track the use, and create adoption plans and strategies to help everyone in the organization use the technology.
Shifting gears, how well does your solution perform on the HMT1 out of the box?
It’s a seamless integration. We optimized our software for the HMT with advanced voice controls and our new capabilities such as Workspace. Out of the box, a customer can trial Onsight running on the HMT-1 today.
Is there anything to call out in terms of performance that you’re super excited about; that functions super well?
I was with an oil and gas customer that RealWear introduced us to and they’ve been using a competitor’s software. The competitor’s software was failing. We went in and the customer looked us in the eyes and said, “Look, I don’t want to talk. You guys say that you can work in low bandwidth, you say you can work in these extreme environments, you say your technology is better. No talk – prove it!”
Picture this. They pulled out this massive suitcase kit for Wi-Fi. They had this test they’d been doing with the HMT-1 where they go into a parking lot, mark how far they can go and what they can do. It’s simulating a rig. We sat up in the office on the 10th floor watching the whole thing.
We put Onsight on the HMT-1, went down to the parking lot and replicated the situation. Even in low bandwidth areas, our solution outperformed the other software by continuing a live video collaboration session with high definition image captures and good quality audio.
Anything else you want to add?
I was going to share what we’re hearing in the field and what our customers are excited about. Our solution is device agnostic. You can use it on smartphones, tablets, and wearables like the RealWear’s hands-free HMT-1 devices. Our customers are excited that the solution works with the HMT-1 and mobile devices straight out of the box. They appreciate the experience we have together in delivering remote mentoring capabilities in difficult field environments.
These enterprises know where they want to be in 5-10 years but also understand that they need to start with proven solutions that drive increased uptime, faster issue resolution and accelerated training on the job. These teams see Onsight on the HMT-1 as a core part of the solution for hands-free collaboration.
Aaron is the Head of Communications for RealWear.