From Mixed Reality to Smart Factory – Austria Shapes the Digital Future of Work
It is not without reason that mixed reality applications rank among the most widely discussed future technologies in industry. Take the example of a specialized employee who is in visual contact with an engineer via his special glasses and can thus remedy malfunctions of a machine on the spot by himself. And think of video conferences which have the same effect as real meetings although the participants are thousands of kilometers apart, or the complete implementation of product design and evaluation before one’s very eyes without the need for prototypes. These examples make the future of work come alive and become something tangible. Innovations “Made in Austria” ensure that the digital revolution will actually also transform the production halls and embed Work 4.0 in our lives.
Blending realities to create a turbocharger of efficiency
For example, the young Tyrolean company Holo-Light is constructing mixed reality devices which eliminate the boundaries between the virtual and analogue worlds and enable new paths of communication. This can accelerate work processes and facilitate know-how transfer. Ultimately the cost effect will be clearly perceptible. I consider this to be a fantastic development and I am not the only one who is so excited. Recently the German energy giant Innogy with its “innovation hub”” acquired a stake in Holo-Light, which was not the only notable occurrence. The new input device for mixed reality applications developed by the Tyrolean firm, comprising a kind of digital pen, received several awards. Holo-Light won one of the coveted Auggie Awards in the category “Best Input & Output Hardware” at the global flagship trade fair Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, USA, and also received the German Innovation Award from our German neighbors.
However, intelligent production has long gone far beyond smart devices. The organization of work in the digital age is also a crucial issue. It is no coincidence that the issue of a “Human Being in the Digital Factory” as well as qualifications and competencies are among the key issues of the Austrian platform Industry 4.0. The previously developed position papers and thought-provoking ideas are certainly a vital initial step. The same applies to numerous initiatives with regard to the Digital Roadmap Austria and Silicon Austria Labs. Initial attempts to translate theory into practice are reflected in Austrian pilot factories and Industry 4.0 testing laboratories in Vienna’s Urban Lakeside, at the Graz University of Technology and also in Linz in the near future. Here companies can try out digitalized production technologies and methods with the support of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology without disrupting their own business operations.
The digital journey has just begun
Leading companies such as Siemens Austria and T-Systems Austria are already on board as project partners of pilot plants, and support developments ranging from the interaction of people and machines and additive manufacturing to batch size 1 production (industrial single item production) and data security in the field of production software. The objective is to emerge as one of the “innovation leaders” based on new findings. If the project “Austria 4.0” succeeds, experts say an additional production value of up to EUR 86 billion could be generated by the year 2025.
Many challenges are certainly ahead of us, from integrating medium-sized companies as the backbone of the economy to employees in a private environment who we will have to take with us on this digital journey. By the way, the latter challenge is also repeatedly confirmed by digitalization rankings. Whereas Austria is in the top ranks in the fields of digital administration and human resources in an EU comparison, private internet use still lags behind. In other words, it is crucial to also get people on board in order to be able to head towards digitalization and Work 4.0 at full speed. I am optimistic that we will soon see positive developments. One can say that a favorable wind is blowing in Austria.