Omlox Combines the World of Tracking with Augmented Reality

Indoor Navigation: omlox and Hololight Stream

omlox solves an industry-wide problem. Hololight Stream enables the implementation. With augmented reality, the omlox tracking standard and the XR streaming solution strive for the revolution of industrial indoor navigation.

Machines, people, tools, and even drones and automated transport systems. Every production site has an unbelievable number of (moving) objects, making asset tracking an essential task. With the open omlox tracking standard, the independent organization PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) has introduced a worldwide industrial standard for tracking technologies. For the first time, information from all existing tracking technologies such as UWB, BLE, RFID, 5G or GPS can be used. In addition, there is an open radio interface in the omlox core-zone, which lets each manufacturer track its devices within the open infrastructure. Augmented reality (AR) should now help visualize the collected position data for on-site employees in real time, a use case that has not been possible till now due to technological hurdles.

Augmented Reality Should Make Tracking Data Usable

Real-time tracking data is the basis for more efficient processes. Machines and equipment can be used more efficiently and employees guided safely and quickly through industrial halls. omlox transfers all tracking data to a uniform coordinate reference system. An augmented reality application now converts this data into information and makes it visible to the employee in real time. That is the theory. 

“The limited computing and graphics power of the required smartphones, tablets or AR goggles presents a challenge here,” says Eberhard Wahl, Head of New Business Technology at Trumpf Werkzeugmaschinen and leader of the omlox Use Cases Workgroup at PI. “The connection of the mobile device to the omlox hub (open data hub in omlox) must also be implemented.” Complex data sets/3D models, data streams and coordinate transformations cannot be meaningfully mapped on the mobile device. 

An additional factor is the open infrastructure setup of the omlox core zone. The position data is computed on a centralized server on the basis of the open omlox core zone infrastructure. This open infrastructure permits the simple and immediate absolute localization of the AR devices. In addition, the factory manager retains sovereignty over all position data in his plant and can manage them in the omlox architecture in a centralized manner, facilitating further analyses, such as the optimization of spatial processes. 

When classic mobile AR hardware is used, however, tracking and machine data, among other information, is stored locally on the device or compulsorily on a connected cloud server, a potential privacy problem and entryway for hackers. “The security of sensitive location data is a key issue for us, especially when mobile devices are finding their way into the home office and may get lost,” Wahl says.

Technology Trend: XR Streaming

“We have made it our goal is to combine the tracking world of omlox with the world of AR, with concrete benefits for the end user and process design,” Eberhard Wahl says. In order to implement the use case plus AR application and overcome the aforementioned hurdles, omlox relies on the XR streaming solution Hololight Stream. The software development kit (SDK) developed by Hololight is a remote rendering component that enables the streaming of entire AR and VR applications. As a result, computing power no longer comes from the mobile device itself, but is provided by a powerful local server or selected cloud – potentially without restrictions.

Once the Hololight Stream is built into the AR application, the app no longer needs to be installed directly on a terminal device. Instead, the AR app is installed and run on the more powerful server or in the cloud through a connection to the omlox hub. A simple receiver app (client app) on the mobile device sends data (room tracking sensor data or position data) to the server with the actual AR application. There, the data is processed and sent back to the receiver app with the 3D content to be displayed. Through real-time streaming AR content such as a 3D machine or live tracking data can be visualized with as yet unmatched detail and complexity.

The Open omlox Core Zone as a Main Enabler

“Countless location systems to support tracking in the augmented reality environment have existed for years,” says Alexander Werlberger, co-founder and CTO of Hololight. “These systems, however, are all proprietary, which prevents widespread use.” Here, the open omlox core zone opens up a new world for AR: The existing omlox core zone infrastructure can be used from any device. Based on the standardized interface, any manufacturer can implement an omlox core zone infrastructure or localization device. In this way, indoor navigation becomes as easy as outdoor navigation.

The open GPS used for outdoor navigation is replaced by the open omlox for indoor purposes. Just as AR can show the navigation of modern cars outdoors according to the exact position, it can also display navigation commands indoors in the same way. As a result, omlox solves two main problems for AR:

  • The simple and open absolute localization of devices in the room directly after activation (omlox core zone)
  • The provision of content for AR devices (where is what) via the omlox hub

“In this way, omlox opens up new application areas for AR indoors, which were previously only feasible using expensive proprietary solutions,” comments Werlberger. Even moving objects (e.g., AGVs, people, assets) can be displayed in the AR application using the omlox hub API.

Everything Runs Through a Centralized Server

All computing processes such as content rendering and application logic from the omlox system now run through a centralized server due to the XR streaming technology Hololight Stream. The centralized server component permits the performant combination of the world of tracking with the AR world – for example, the omlox core zone with the coordinate system of the HoloLens 2 AR goggles. Arrows, navigation instructions, machine data, tool positions, etc. are displayed on the AR goggles of the end user in real time. On the back-end side, the AR application can be controlled and maintained by the server as with the rest of the omlox system. The agnostic approach to devices and server infrastructure of the Hololight Stream also enables integration of additional devices such as Android and iOS smartphones without further developmental effort.

“Due to the open omlox architecture, products can be tracked end-to-end,” explains Eberhard Wahl. “If an AR component is added, employees on site can also profit from the data.” Workers on site receive information on machine positioning, status information and safety routes on the display. The AR indoor navigation apps that are currently available, however, are often too imprecise and cumbersome to implement and use. With omlox, users can also find devices inside buildings, similar to what is already possible outdoors using GPS. With the XR streaming SDK Hololight Stream integrated into the AR application, the system is also considerably more stable. 

“Using Hololight Stream, we can combine a stationary system with a mobile algorithm,” says Wahl. “And all that with centralized control.” At the same time, the streaming of entire AR applications increases data security in the IoT. All data is simply streamed and not saved on the mobile device. It is located on the server selected by the customer. As Eberhard Wahl concludes, “With the AR application, we are redefining indoor navigation: no need to attach QR codes, no complex preparation of halls and a precision that is significantly higher than that of comparable systems.”