Proximus | Bringing mixed reality to construction sites with the speed of 5G
The arrival of 5G opens up a wealth of new possibilities for people and businesses around the world. It has the potential to transform companies and even entire industries with innovative solutions.
In Belgium, telecom provider Proximus is deploying a 5G network. To help customers achieve the best value, Proximus has also launched an innovation platform where they invite other companies to co-create new technologies that take advantage of 5G.
This naturally caught our attention and Mr. Watts was chosen as the first partner on the platform. Together with construction company Hooyberghs, we explored a holographic solution with HoloLens 2 that captures BIM models and brings real-time information to construction sites thanks to 5G.
BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. It is a digital representation that contractors and site managers use to share knowledge about a building’s construction. Thanks to smartglasses, we can now overlay this model on top of reality and ensure that the user’s hands are free to make efficient adjustments. Construction company Hooyberghs was quickly convinced of the potential and Proximus also decided to invest in the project through their innovation platform.
“Smartglasses open up a world of new opportunities within different sectors, from manufacturing and construction to logistics, retail and healthcare. It enables capabilities that transform our way of working”, says Francis Duvivier, IoT Business Developer and Solution Manager at Proximus. “For example, by getting rid of all the overhead administration tasks during quality checks, which are often done on paper or via tablets. Or by giving access to documentation and plans in augmented reality.”
As co-investor, Hooyberghs will be the first to benefit from a tailor-made solution. Afterward, Proximus will distribute the technology to other companies as part of their 5G business offering. Most construction sites have no Wi-Fi connection and 5G offers the benefit of ultra-low latency. “Without this low latency, the plans rendered from the BIM platform would not align with reality, making it impossible to work. Proximus provides this latency thanks to the 5G technology”, says Francis Duvivier. In fact, we were able to achieve a latency of around 100 milliseconds, which is amazing since anything below 400 milliseconds is considered ‘real-time’.
There are many different BIM systems, so Proximus needed a ‘pluggable’ solution that can be adapted to the needs of other customers. Therefore, Mr. Watts developed a holographic backend solution. This is a server that connects to the HoloLens and aggregates data from an underlying system. Here we have created the possibility to quickly add new connectors for other BIM platforms than the one used by Hooyberghs, while the HoloLens communicates with the same server to retrieve data.
For rendering the 3D models we use Microsoft Azure Cloud. Of course, Azure must be able to read the models first, which is why we have built a smart component that takes care of the conversion.
Testing of the entire solution is also automated and Proximus receives monthly reports about the performances. This allows us to validate our code against vulnerabilities and standards such as GDPR.
So in a nutshell, we have not just developed a new HoloLens application, we offer a complete solution that integrates the HoloLens 2 into an ecosystem and sets the course for more innovations.
Visualizing BIM models at full scale provides real-time quality control for site managers and contractors. They can, for example, easily observe that a wall is not built in the correct position and intervene before other elements are added. HoloLens 2 is integrated into a helmet and provides perfect sound thanks to a bone conduction headphone. So, even when there is a lot of noise on the site, the user can quietly carry out a quality check or even make a phone call using the smart glasses.
“The software developed by Mr. Watts allows us to visualize important information stored in a cloud environment”, says Henk van Oosterhout, BIM manager at Hooyberghs. “We prepare each of our projects thoroughly and then use 3D models to check for quality and dimensions during the construction phase. Of course, we can also do this on a tablet, but HoloLens 2 frees up our hands to make adjustments. We can immediately install materials in line with the virtual representation.”
Find out more about the use of HoloLens 2 at Hooyberghs in this dedicated case.
Testing is essential to keep improving the solution. The first tests are held on a construction site in Antwerp. Then Hooyberghs will provide the HoloLens 2 to some of its employees who were also involved in the project. They will test the smartglasses in their daily operations. In the meantime, Proximus will also monitor and finetune the 5G network to meet the needs of Hooyberghs.
Proximus will eventually distribute the solution to other construction businesses. And of course, Mr. Watts remains available for behind-the-scenes support.
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Do you wish to brainstorm internally about the possibilities of the HoloLens? We’ve got you covered! Download our easy step-by-step guide for implementing the HoloLens in your organization.