With the Olympic Games 2012 well underway in London, it’s a good time to take a step back and think about how technology impacts motion and our studies of continuous improvement. And we’ll do this because it ties in so nicely with a new video from our partner Siemens demonstrating their “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) software Tecnomatix Jack that’s being combined with Microsoft Kinect to assist utilities with their environment, health and safety procedures. 

The buzz around the London pools at the start of the games was swimwear. In 2010, the Game’s governing bodies disallowed future use of buoyant supersuits that were being credited for a spate of world record breaking performances. In 2009, at the World Championships in Rome, some 43 world records were broken, and everyone attributed the high-tech swimsuits made of buoyant materials to incremental speed in the water. Before that, at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 25 world records were broken, with nearly all the swimmers wearing those super-fabric bodysuits. The question floating around London was whether a return to textile fabrics would decrease the number of world record breaking performances.

So what has happened in the first weeks of the London Games? Nine records have already succumbed to superior athletic performances, even without the supersuits. The reason? The swimmers and their trainers knew that to break records they would have to return to the fundamentals of better training and better preparation. They would not be able to factor streamlining fabrics into their final performances.

By now you’re wondering how this relates to Utility work and software.

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Well, take a look at this video from Siemens about how several software combinations – Siemens Tecnomatix Jack, Microsoft’s Kinect, and a radiation analysis tool from a third party – were combined to minimize the amount of time that mechanics and maintenance workers spend in the plant, exposed to radiation at nuclear power plants. All workers can wear protective clothing to help reduce some radiation penetration, but exposure still occurs. This being the case, the environmental health & safety goal becomes maximizing the speed at which tasks must be performed in the plant, and thereby minimizing the time exposed. In a gross analogy, swimming world records are much the same – motion simulating computer programs have maximized the value of every single stroke for each competitor to minimize their time swimming across the pool. They’ve planned and imitated the performance of each stroke countless times before entering the water for that Olympic race. The clothing factor does not matter.

Siemen’s video is well worth its 5-minute run time because you can get a good idea of several things we’ve been talking about over the years: the ability of Microsoft products to integrate with our partners’ solutions to add value for Utility customers. In this case, the value we’re adding is lifesaving – we’re minimizing radiation exposures for employees while helping to maximize the efficient operation of nuclear plants.

For more technical details on the Tecnomatix Jack solutions click here and for a great blog on the technical integration of Kinect with Jack and its application to employees’ movements while doing maintenance, please click here.

You’ll notice that there are several references to “industrial gaming” in the blog and the video. Maybe we should suggest that maintenance workers are competing for new personal best records with each effort to minimize their time in nuclear plants. We are proud to support those sorts of achievements. – Jon C. Arnold