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Mobile Video Collaboration: Bringing Experts to the Problems Instantly
Special camera and encryption send secure streaming video.

Time is money. For companies with operations spread across the globe, delays in resolving quality problems or production line issues can kill the bottom line. If the most skilled engineer is located in New York or Detroit and the production line is in China, costs mount quickly when decisions are delayed. Typically, the expert (or a whole team of experts) would board a plane to go and try to solve the problem, causing further delays and incurring expensive travel costs. With mobile collaboration, no one leaves their desk, let alone the country.

Secure Mobile Video
The standard form of video collaboration facilitates face-to-face meetings in video conferencing boardrooms. For manufacturers, though, the heart of their business is often the plant floor — where traditional video conferencing doesn't reach.

With the development of new mobile technologies, the opportunity for video collaboration has expanded. Manufacturers are now taking video collaboration outside of the boardroom and onto the plant floor, to a supplier location, or into the field where the problems are occurring.

These mobile technologies generally include wireless video devices for use on the plant floor and collaboration software for the remote experts' desktops. Plant workers use the mobile device to share video, voice, telestration (i.e., onscreen drawing) and images with the experts who interact live through the collaborative use of PC software. Remote experts can also share images or pre-recorded videos to play on the touchscreen panel of the device. By sharing this visual content, the experts provide plant floor personnel or field technicians with visual instructions.

For many manufacturers, their plant floor operation contains competitive sensitive information; for this reason, cameras are typically not allowed on the plant floor. In many Fortune 1000 companies, potentially "rogue" video devices such as smart phones must be checked at security. New video conferencing mobile devices overcome that concern by providing tight security over the wireless communication, media content and device usage. Security, encryption, authentication and even centralized administrative control have become table stakes for mobile video collaboration products.

Driving Quality Improvements
For one electronics manufacturer, mobile video collaboration has helped visually connect engineers in technical centers with plants in locations such as Mexico.

In one instance, the manufacturer experienced an abnormally high scrap rate for one of its products. Language barriers and the inability to capture movement made e-mail and phone communication insufficient to resolve the detailed process issues. Instead of sending specialized engineers to Mexico, the manufacturer held a series of live collaboration sessions.

The team in Mexico streamed video from the plant floor using the mobile device to show the engineering team the existing production process. By seeing the process live, the specialists identified numerous process errors. They then communicated the problems and corrective action steps during a follow-on live collaboration session.

To make sure the feedback was clear, the production team in Mexico then showed the remote engineering team the revised process. This collaboration took three hours instead of the estimated three or four days that typically resulted from attempts to correct problems using e-mail or travel. As a result, the scrap rate immediately decreased by 25 percent after the new process was implemented.

Improving Supplier Interaction
Manufacturers also use mobile collaboration to streamline supply chain interaction. Design reviews and first-run production samples are an ongoing part of standard communication between customers and suppliers. Normally, team members would travel to the supplier locations for live interactions, introducing delays into the process.

Instead of travel, mobile devices are now kept or shipped to major suppliers to perform live visual communication when needed. The camera optics within these mobile devices are so advanced that remote experts can see detailed design aspects where even a fraction of a millimeter matters. In some cases, third-party cameras such as microscopes or borescopes can also be attached to the mobile device to show the remote experts even more detailed visuals. By interacting live with suppliers on the plant floor, manufacturers accelerate product delivery, reduce travel costs, and leverage scarce expert resources in their own company and that of their supply chain partners.

Manufacturers also use mobile collaboration with OEM vendors to perform acceptance test processes on new production line equipment. The process was traditionally conducted at the supplier site. Multiple skill sets were required to adequately inspect and test the new production line equipment, which meant teams of people traveling to the supplier's facility.

Instead of sending a team of people, manufacturers now send one person with the mobile collaboration device to stream video and interact with colleagues to perform the acceptance test.

Network Requirements
It is important to consider infrastructure requirements for the mobile collaboration system. Mobile devices require either an Ethernet or wireless network connection to access the Internet.

Wireless connectivity (i.e.802.11 b/g) is the most common method used in facilities such as a manufacturing plant. The bandwidth consumption typically ranges from 250 kbps to 1 Mbps depending on the existing infrastructure.

For field based applications, it is more common to see bandwidth consumption below 128 kbps due to narrow bandwidth backhaul connections. Even with only 128 kbps, mobile collaboration can include live video, voice, telestration, and image sharing between the field technician and the remote expert.

Another alternative to consider is the use of 3G or 4G cellular networks through mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices such as the MiFi or Cradlepoint. By using a hotspot device, a wireless network can be created anywhere that offers adequate cellular coverage.

With the advent of mobile technologies, securely extending the power of video collaboration across an enterprise is now a reality. Enterprises are already experiencing the benefits of mobile video within manufacturing including product quality improvements, production line downtime reductions and more effective supplier communication. Now, engaging in a full video collaboration session has become as simple as making a phone call.

Contact: Librestream Technologies Inc., 895 Waverley St., Suite 110, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3T 5P4 Canada 800-849-5507 or 204-487-0612 fax: 204-487-0914 E-mail: marieke.wijtkamp@librestream.com Web:
http://www.librestream.com

 
 
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