Smoke and fire is all around you, the sound of the alarm makes you dizzy and people are running in panic to escape the inferno while you have to find your way to safety. This is not a scene in the latest video game but actually training for e.g. field engineers in an exact virtual copy of a real world environment such as oil platforms or manufacturing plants.
In a recent discussion with VRcontext, a company based in Brussels and specialized since 10 years in asset virtualization, I was fascinated by the possibilities to create virtual copies of real world large, extremely complex assets simply from scanning existing CAD plans or on-site laser scans. It’s not just the 3D virtualization but the integration of the virtual world with Enterprise Asset Management (EAM), ERP, LIMS, P&ID and other systems that allows users to track, identify and locate every single piece of equipment in the real and virtual world.
These solutions are used today for safety training simulations as well as to increase operational efficiency e.g. in asset maintenance processes. There are still areas for further improvements, like the integration of RFID tags or sensor readings. However, as the technology further matures I can see future use cases all over the place – from the virtualization of any kind of location that is difficult or dangerous to enter to simple office buildings for a ‘company campus tour’ or a ‘virtual meeting’. And it doesn’t require super-computing power – it all runs on low-spec, ‘standard’ PCs and the models are only taking few GBytes storage.
So if you are bored of running around in Second Life or World Of Warcraft, if you ever have the chance, exchange your virtual sword for a wrench and visit the ‘real’ virtual world of a fascinating oil rig or refinery.
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The world is becoming more and more complex and so are the business challenges and their related IT solutions. Today no single vendor can provide complete end-to-end solutions from physical assets to business process optimization. Some large vendors like IBM, Oracle or HP, have extended their solution footprint to cover more and more of the four IT core markets hardware, middleware software, business applications and services but still require complementary partner solutions to cover end-to-end processes. Two examples of emerging complex IT solutions include:
Smart Computing integrates the physical world with business process optimization via four steps: Awareness (sensors, tags etc.), Analysis (analytic solutions), Alternatives (business applications with decision support) and Action (feedback loop into the physical world). A few specialized vendors such as Savi Technology can cover the whole portfolio from sensors to business applications for selected scenarios. However, in general a complete solution requires many partners working closely together to enable an end-to-end process.
Cloud Computing includes different IT resources (typically infrastructure, middleware and applications) which are offered in pay-by-use, self-service models via the internet. The seamless consumption of these resources for the end user anytime and anywhere however requires multiple technologies, processes and a challenging governance model often with many different stakeholder involved, behind the scene.