To understand how augmented reality (AR) and smart glasses could transform the business of asset management services, consider what happens when an important piece of equipment unexpectedly malfunctions at a factory or power substation.

Today, engineers might be called in to diagnose the problem. They will consult an asset management database for details on the equipment’s maintenance and repair history. After the problem is diagnosed and addressed, that information also will be logged into the system.

It’s all very helpful.

But imagine how much more helpful it might be if that database were replaced with an intelligent 3-D building information model (BIM) that technicians could pull up on-site on their smart glasses?

After drilling down to visualize the nameplates of the affected assets, they’d gain digital access to everything from equipment drawings and operating manuals to current and historical data on performance. Should they have questions, they can use their smart glasses to transmit images to off-site engineers for direction and guidance.

AR makes all of this possible.

How? Think of AR as the bridge that connects physical assets in the field to an asset management system in an office, and think of smart glasses as the tool that makes this connection easy and affordable.

In addition to helping streamline diagnoses and repairs, smart glasses can be used to populate a BIM. By scanning equipment labels and interpreting Bluetooth beacons, they can collect data and transfer it to an off-site database.

In the longer term, the impact of this new, smarter form of asset management systems will be even greater. Facility managers who use sensors to monitor equipment performance can use data analysis to forecast its decline. This information can be used to improve decision-making and performance across an asset’s life. It can also help prevent outages — and the lost productivity and other expenses associated with them.

It changes everything.

Chrissy Carr is the director of sales and marketing for the Burns & McDonnell Networks, Integration & Automation Group. She specializes in the design of telecommunications systems and utility automation. She has extensive engineering and project management experience, including responsibilities in planning and design of wired and wireless infrastructure for a wide variety of clients in the municipal utilities, investor-owned utilities, rural electric cooperatives, industrial companies, and state and federal governments.