Face time

Librestream’s OnSight helps manufacturers solve off-site plant issues remotely.

August 8, 2011   by Matt Powell

When Bill Gallanders and seven other engineers formed Librestream in 2003, streaming media was still isolated to voice-over IP systems. Within three years, the Winnipeg-based company introduced the world’s first remote video-collaboration system, which is making plants more tech-savvy, cutting downtime and increasing production.

Mind you it took some time and a lot of coding – 1.2 million lines – to introduce Librestream’s OnSight, which tackles complex manufacturing and supply chain problems remotely using a real-time video, voice and telestration collaboration system.

“Getting investment money to build the system was the main reason it took so long,” says Gallanders. “We had to do freelance engineering consultations for a year just to pay the bills.”

Their remote video-collaboration is certainly paying off now that it’s used by Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 clients around the world.

“Say you have an injection moulding machine that’s reporting a batch of parts you need has failed,” he says. “Someone must decide whether those parts have to be redone or you’re going to use them as is – this is something on which you can collaborate remotely with off-site quality assurance personnel using the OnSight system.”

The technology is a beefed-up version of video conference calling, with voice and telestration capabilities that run through a remote network of broadband and cellular networks.

An onsite worker uses a hand-held device that videos or takes still images of a troublesome piece of machinery. Session initiation protocol (SIP) is then used to control multimedia communication sessions such as video and voice calls through unique IP addresses, allowing interaction with off-site experts.

“The entire video conferencing industry is standardized on SIP,” says Gallanders. “We made the process wireless by integrating those capabilities into OnSight.”

Librestream preps its clients to ensure there are no broadband issues.

“We spend a lot of time making sure companies measure their available bandwidth,” says Gallanders. “The clients need to understand its network environment. But typologies and network firewalls also need to be worked around to ensure the system works properly. We make sure our product is as robust as possible so the customer doesn’t have bandwidth as a barrier to use.”

In a manufacturing setting, the system manages supply chains and conducts design reviews for industries such as aerospace, automotive and packaging, reducing unplanned downtime while improving production by increasing response time to machinery issues on the shop floor.

OnSight uses three models of IP64-rated (completely dust and water-proof) handheld devices that cover industrial settings (OnSight 1000) to extreme and potentially hazardous (OnSight 2000R) and outdoor settings (2000EX). All models provide real-time video streaming, two-way VOIP audio with speakerphone and handset capabilities, and outstanding optical zoom for video and still images (1cm to 10x). Users can draw or make annotations onscreen; bi-directional image sharing modes help out when network connection strength may be a concern; and there are advanced security, encryption and authentication features.

A testimonial on the company’s website describes how the device streamlined Western Glove Works’ supply chain operations by moving production to a lower cost region, while plant managers and designers interacted remotely from very distant parts of the globe.

Ramping up in Asia
The Winnipeg company, which produces about 8 million denim products annually, collaborated with production teams in Bangladesh and China to solve detail issues as minute as missed stitches and denure count.

Librestream currently employs about 50 people (at its 1,022 square-metre facility), most of them devoted to R&D and engineering, says Marieke Wijtkamp, vice-president of marketing and client services.

Customers are mostly North American-based Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 businesses in manufacturing and oil and gas, but Wijtkamp says as more companies consolidate their manufacturing operations off-shore, Librestream is ramping up in areas such as Asia and South America.

The company has some exciting new upgrades in the works, locked away in the company’s lab. As manufacturing continues to evolve with the emergence of new equipment technologies, Librestream is ready to address the next level of industry concerns, even if it takes another 1.2 million lines of code.

Matt Powell is an online reporter with E-mail

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