Hiab has since the start been at the forefront of mechanical, electronic and hydraulic testing. In February Hiab continued its pioneering journey with the inauguration of its new Vision Lab, the latest addition to the Test and Innovation center in Hudiksvall, Sweden. Magnus Pettersson, Senior Manager New Technologies and New Business Solutions at Hiab says:
“Hiab has innovation at its core. This facility gives us the possibility to test the newest technologies within imaging, vision and object recognition under almost any circumstance. The Hiab Vision Lab is the next step for us at R&D and the journey to fully automated machines. The goal is to improve existing sensors and create new smart sensors for all our product lines”.
Detecting and identifying objects has been a long-time challenge within the industry sector. What Hiab's products are facing is nature itself and its shifting environments: snow, ice, cold, moisture, rain, fog, clouds and shifting light. Hiab’s new Vision Lab is designed to be able to fully adapt and simulate every thinkable condition. The lab is completely sealed, without windows to eliminate light pollution. It can be completely darkened and has lighting that can be controlled for testing in realistic conditions. Hiab Vision Lab also makes it possible to capture real scenarios using for example video or data retrieval to use as test environment. With fully controllable conditions, tests can be carried out repeatedly with the exact same settings. This ensures that the systems that are developed are robust and work flawlessly every time.
The goal with Hiab Vision Lab is to develop loading solutions that are at the forefront of technology and to test the limits of what is possible. Through Hiab Vision Lab, the company can collaborate with customers and partners already in the development phase of a new solution. And if a customer is facing a problem with a product, Hiab can simulate this in the lab and create a tailormade solution just for them. Magnus Pettersson says:
“We collaborate on problems and develop solutions that applies to real world problems together with each product line. This adds extra value for the customer and is extremely valuable for us at Hiab, as we can use this to improve both our existing and future services”.
Hiab’s primary focus is always safety and customer centric solutions – that is why Hiab work hard every day to give its customer the tools of the future. So, what are Hiab working on right now?
One of the first projects in the Hiab Vision Lab is based around AR (augmented reality). Hiab is now evaluating Microsoft HoloLens using inhouse developed applications and software. One area of research is how to improve service and maintenance on Hiab's machines. Through AR, a service technician can be in the field without being there physically. The eyes and expertise of Hiab’s technicians becomes the eyes and expertise of the user. Through AR, technicians can draw plans, show schematics, and explain processes layered on top of the actual world that the user and customer sees. The ambition is to make it easier and faster to solve problems while saving time and resources for the customer – leading to a better result on the bottom line.
Presently, the technology is still quite expensive and bulky, but in a not so far future it is estimated that both cost and size will have been reduced significantly and that it will almost be considered “everyday technology”. This has led Hiab to develop other tools that are easier to implement today. Based on a mobile client available for iOS and Android a customer in the field can have direct contact, through either Wi-Fi or 3G / 4G, with a service department to show what he or she sees through the phone’s camera. The person on the "other side" can then share the screen and explain using drawings which button, cable or valve could be causing problems and what needs to be addressed. It is also possible to share drawings, schematics or symbols directly on the screen. It becomes much more intuitive to explain e.g. checklists or troubleshooting parts. Of course, a discussion over voice call can be conducted simultaneously.
Hiab is now working on new Object Detection Systems assisted by Machine Learning in Neural Networks. It's still in an early stage, but Hiab's goal is to train the system to quickly and accurately recognize a multitude of different objects. Possible use cases are security enhancement and safety improvements, the combination of thermal and visual imaging is a prerequisite for a more robust security solution that detects and classifies people and objects near the machine regardless of lighting conditions.
“One of the improvements we are working on is the evolution of HiVision, a connected system to improve operational efficiency and safety through camera technologies”.
Already sold to 10 markets, HiVision Control system for forestry cranes lets the operator control the crane using Virtual Reality goggles, controllers, and connected high resolution cameras from the safety and comfort of the truck cabin. Two forward looking cameras capture the environment in high quality stereoscopic 3D. Side cameras capture the surrounding view, allowing the operator to look around as easily as if he or she was physically in the crane cabin. Image processing algorithms enhance contrast and image quality even in difficult lighting situations. Important information about the truck and crane system is shown as an overlay, making it always available without obstructing the operator's view.
Combined with Light detection and ranging, LIDAR (including LADAR or laser radar), it is possible to create a 3D environment of what the camera sees including 3D remote viewing and deep vision. By combining 2-3 different sensors, it is also possible to ensure that you can always see the surrounding area and safely operate the equipment.
The ability to see the vehicle in 360 degrees and from above gives you completely different opportunities to work with, and control your vehicle. For example, through the 360 view you will be able to see where you place the support legs both faster and with better precision than if you must exit the truck and manually check each leg. This also increase safety while operating the crane. In winter times, the visibility might be poor, and the environment cold and icy. This leads to an increased risk of falling if outside the cabin, which can result in injuries or damage to equipment. Hiab’s vision is that you do not have to exit at all and instead can take care of everything inside the cab, but with an unobstructed view and a vastly improved working environment.
Hiab HiVision already today consists of several separate systems working together to create a secure solution with minimal downtime and more features will be added to improve on that in the future.