From Safety Glasses to Data Glasses

A new app enables Google Glass (spectacles with a heads-up Internet display) to show shop floor data using MTConnect functionality.


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Talk about “shop floor visibility.” Indiana Technology and Manufacturing Companies (ITAMCO) has released MTConnect + Google Glass, a free Glassware application that monitors machine tools using Google Glass. Google Glass is a heads-up display, camera, touchpad, microphone, email and Internet connection built into a spectacle frame. A special lens puts text and images right in front of your eyes—literally.

What ITAMCO has done is couple this technology with MTConnect functionality. MTConnect is the open-source standard for collecting and communicating real-time information generated by manufacturing processes and factory floor equipment from a variety of vendors. The standard specifies the XML data format, so flowing data on to the Internet is virtually seamless. For example, with MTConnect + Google Glass, a user can walk up to the machine tool and instantly see a display of its current status, efficiency, energy usage and other vital data as approved by the wearer.

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Google Glass users will be liberated from laptops and hand-held smart devices and be able to travel the entire shop floor, gathering and sharing machine data provided by MTConnect, and accessing the internet for more information as he goes, says Joel Niedig, of the developers at ITAMCO.

Some details about the app give a good indication of the power of this technology (and the value of MTConnect as an enabler): Data streams from MTConnect agents directly to Google Glass. Google Glass recognizes the machine tool, grabs appropriate information and parses the stream to display it in a user-friendly way for the Google Glass wearer. The user will be able to view the following information from the MTConnect-compatible equipment: Power Status, Emergency Stop, Alarm/Messages, Block, Controller Mode, Line, Program, Execution, Path Feed-Rate, Spindle, Axis Positions, Spindle Overrides, Feed-Rate Overrides, Machine Location, Part Location, and Current Part Status. Also, if there is a camera inside the machine, Google Glass will stream the video to the user and overlay the machine data so the user can compare, analyze and make quick decisions. The user could record and share this data seamlessly with all appropriate parties.

At the moment, availability of Google Glass is restricted as developers of the device continue refining its performance and testing user experiences. Consumer versions of these spectacles are expected to be released in 2014. In the meantime, ITAMCO’s app shows the promise of these devices to benefit manufacturing.