Video Inspections: AR and AI Technology Power Supply Chain Continuity

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Deploying remote real-time video inspections using mobile devices, tablets and smart glasses to help maintain global supply chains and operational efficiency when health and safety restrictions challenge business continuity.

A few years ago, the use of augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI), either to augment or supplement in-person inspections, was more of an abstract concept than widespread reality. But the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 jolted these developments forward. Suddenly, its use seemed to be everywhere, and its reach continues to grow.

Measuring the transformation shaped by the use of remote technologies in the inspection of offshore vessels, a headline in a leading maritime industry magazine recently declared it “Deus ex machina.” In terms of transformative impact, this is hardly an exaggeration.

Virtually every industry has been forced to ride steep waves of change in this past “year of losses,” as McKinsey & Company put it. While many of the shifts businesses had to embrace are set to become more permanent, it remains to be seen whether or not other changes will be gradually phased out. As optimism about the post-COVID economy continues to increase, leaders will take stock of what the pandemic revealed about their operations and business models. With this said, it’s a safe bet that AR and AI technologies will continue upward trajectories of adoption.

At SightCall, we have been inspired by the resilience of companies large and small throughout this crisis. We occupy a unique vantage point, offering high-caliber remote assistance solutions that cushioned the impact of operational disruptions, while empowering businesses to realize long-term ambitions of more digital and borderless customer service. This has hardly been more evident in the use of AI- and AR-powered video calls to perform remote inspections.

With a video calling platform quickly and easily nestled within existing customer relationship management (CRM) software, companies have deployed safe and accurate assessments of facilities and equipment anywhere in the world, respecting health regulations and cost constraints.

Integration needs are only the beginning for companies implementing these solutions. For example, Bureau Veritas’s marine and offshore division recently engaged SightCall to grow its remote classification survey capabilities.

With in-person inspections involving significant time and cost, and becoming increasingly difficult and potentially dangerous in the context of COVID-19, the company could count on high picture and video quality, even in low-bandwidth conditions, along with quick recognition and feedback of site data without the need for manual entry. Bureau Veritas accessed SightCall sessions with any vessel on a wide range of devices, debuting its first drone-operated survey in March 2020. The results included a significantly reduced risk to workers, the minimization of on-site survey costs and the ability to make effective decisions from a distance.

Another customer, a food and beverage company operating in more than 40 countries, shifted to video in lieu of performing in-person safety inspections of suppliers and co-packers. Virtually transforming the inspection process allowed them to identify and resolve potential food safety and supply chain issues while reducing the risk of product contamination or employee infection. On the SightCall platform, inspectors have more than just video access – they are able to perform inspections in a secure and stable environment, augmented with features that allow them to perform routine tasks and share knowledge as if they were onsite.

Transitioning to remote inspections with SightCall, this company realized more efficiency in their traditional processes. Site visits that often took days, including planning and travel time, could now be resolved in a single session lasting a few hours. In addition to minimizing travel costs and reducing carbon footprint, they were now able to securely save and store data from inspections that had not previously been collected during in-person visits.

The positive transformation enabled by AI- and AR-powered remote inspections, making operations more flexible, less costly and safer, seems to guarantee it will remain a highly sought-after capability in a variety of industries. The companies that have already embraced this technology are arguably ahead of the curve – changing their industries for the better and forcing the competition to rise to the occasion or be left behind.