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sts.components.contact.mr.placeholder Sebastian Webel
Mr. Sebastian Webel

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Pictures of the Future
The Magazine for Research and Innovation
 

The Future of Manufacturing – Inside Siemens’ Labs

Speaking to the Needs of Field Service Technicians

A team headed by Michael Golm is developoing a service that enables technicians equipped with a headset to obtain detailed spoken answers to verbal questions regarding Siemens-specific technologies such as offshore wind turbines.

Voice-activated services for simple commands can now be found in Internet search engines, cars, and stereo systems. Now, Siemens has developed a prototype system capable of processing and verbally responding to complex questions related to specialized repair and maintenance issues in systems such as turbines and rail systems.

Voice-activated services are popping up in search engines, cars and home stereo systems. However, such systems, which are generally limited to a single command like switching on a search engine or turning on the lights, suffer from two major drawbacks: They are incapable of managing complex tasks and they do not offer product-specific information or instructions.  With this in mind, a team of researchers led by Dr. Michael Golm of Siemens Corporate Technology in Princeton, New Jersey, has developed a technology that uses off-the-shelf voice recognition software to literally speak to the needs of field service technicians.

Take, for instance, a technician working in a wind turbine’s nacelle, which can be well over 133 meters above the ground. Rather than calling someone who may not be immediately available or who may not know every detail of the particular turbine in question, the technician could access software known as a “Dialogue Manager” to verbally ask how to, for instance, open an unfamiliar turbine cover. “Our vision is to have a system that a technician can talk to as if he or she were talking to a human expert,” says Golm. The technician would just need a headset, could speak in regular language, and would receive the kinds of answers one might expect from a human expert. This would make it possible to perform complex tasks using both hands because it would not be necessary to hold a display device for instructions.

“Our vision is to have a system that a technician can talk to as if he or she were talking to a human expert.”
In addition to talking with a virtual specilist, technicians could recieve supplementary instructions on a tablet.

Very Different from Anything Anyone Else Offers

“This is very different from what’s on the market because it is a dialogue system for complex tasks,” explains Helmut Degen, who designed the voice user experience and supporting methodology for various domains. “It automatically tracks the state it is in as if different levels of dialogue boxes were open and thus augments standard graphical user interfaces. What’s more, it is unique because it is specific to Siemens domains, such as turbines and rail systems and its interactions are tailored and optimized to the specific requirements of those domains. That is very different from anything anyone else offers.”

The system, which is now in prototype form, could be applied to any number of highly specialized areas, such as power plants and remote mining facilities. And naturally, the resulting data would not be stored in other companies’ networks or clouds, but in MindSphere — the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens that boosts the capabilities of technical systems by acquiring and analyzing large amounts of production data. Indeed, images pertaining to wear and tear and other data could be uploaded to MindSphere, which would provide follow-up analytics.  

Arthur F. Pease