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Using Tech from Crowd-Funded Remote Expert Firm, EDF Saves Big

Brett Brune
By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing

A portentous encounter six years ago propelled Expert Teleportation founder to a place where he’s (almost) ready to pursue the remote expert market in the U.S.

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Expert Teleportation’s Frederic Pedro, right, shows Didier Rubert, test engineer at EDF Thermal Engineering, how to set up the equipment that runs Expert Teleportation’s software.

PARIS—When two reps from Naval Group knocked on Frederic Pedro’s door in Angoulême, France, in 2012, they looked quite serious: “Our sons are playing your game Origami Challenge,” he recalled them saying. “It’s very complicated. And they don’t go to class to learn to play games. What are your secrets?”

That ominous visit, along with a nudge from his father, propelled Pedro out of the video game development industry and into manufacturing. The Naval Group guys needed more intuitive tools and software for their work designing the nuclear submarine for France: A simple user interface. Something with no bugs. Something addictive.

So the company Pedro founded in 2010 stopped developing games to focus on industrial needs.

Pedro tried his hand at developing augmented reality apps for smart glasses. But his father (who works as a technical director in maintenance) advised that that work was not innovative enough and encouraged him to instead make video software for smart glasses.

By 2015, his Paris-based firm, Expert Teleportation, gathered €100,000 ($116,000) via crowd-source financing, Pedro said.

Pedro, 32, is now evangelizing an offering by the same name: It includes software to run smart glasses, connectivity solutions like souped-up Internet routers, and services related to smart glasses.

The last “pillar” of the offering sometimes includes smart glasses-deployment methodology, customization of hardware and software and connectivity solutions. Expert Teleportation also customizes smart glasses kits to match needs related to data storage, as well as specific audio environments and lighting scenarios. And it provides spares—because in the rough-and-tumble places where oil and gas are extracted from the earth, equipment breaks.

Paired with smart glasses, he said, Expert Teleportation “allows experts to instantly and remotely guide the hands of a technician on the field”—from a distance.

In part because Expert Teleportation’s main product is borderless, it is intent on getting in on the remote-expert game in the U.S., as well as the U.K., Germany and several other countries—and quickly.

To that end, Pedro is taking part in Business France’s first French accelerator “dedicated to the industry of the future in North America.” The 10-month program is specialized in monitoring and control tech, as well as data analytics. Business France is orienting the eight “laureates” it selected for a few days here before jetting off to Detroit and Toronto for a 10-day immersion program that begins Nov 12.

Expert Teleportation counts Électricité de France (EDF), Peugeot Citroen and TechnipFMC as fellow explorers and likely customers.

EDF recoups $117,000 investment in 9 months

The young firm helped EDF expand its business in Africa, Pedro said. “EDF tech experts here in France can now share their expertise with people working in plants in Africa—in 20 minutes instead of the five days it used to take because of travel.”

EDF bought 10 complete Expert Teleportation systems for 100,285 euros ($117,000) in January—and has already recouped the cost, in part because it avoided four international trips, Didier Rubert, test engineer at EDF Thermal Engineering, said.

For example, because of the technology, EDF in July was able to send three, rather than 10, experts to Senegal to transfer a power plant it built to the client, Rubert said, noting that EDF also deploys power plants in places like Brazil, China and the United Arab Emirates. That scaled-down operation in Senegal saved EDF 54,000 euros ($63,180).

Additionally, he said, Expert Teleportation improves the safety of installations because of improved expertise available and speedier and otherwise improved maintenance.

System considered ‘idiot-proof’

TechnipFMC, which builds oil production facilities, including factories, oil rigs and subsea infrastructure, works in hard-to-access areas around the world: the open ocean, Siberia, West Africa and the middle of the Amazon.

When the firm was looking to “upgrade” workers, it chose Expert Teleportation, in part because the offering enables an audio/video connection with remote-located experts and is so easy to use—while wearing gloves—that it is considered “idiot-proof,” Jean François Duroch, innovation manager at TechnipFMC, said in a presentation at Imagine Day 2018 in Paris.

In systems that involve Expert Teleportation, workers in the field wear a connected telescope that includes a camera and microphone. The telescope is activated with the press of a button on a worker’s armband. After that, operation is hands-free.

Expert Teleportation also proved to work just fine in the “real-life conditions” oil and gas companies experience—meaning no Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G coverage on site, he added. The setup accommodated protective gear and equipment required “in an industry environment where explosions are possible” and ATEX standards come into play. It also made it easy to encrypt data recorded at partners’ sites, providing data security.

“We thought Expert Teleportation was a good solution,” Duroch said, noting that his firm’s pilot project with the company demonstrated significant time and cost savings “when the technician is able to respond to a major problem himself.”

How remote can ‘audio AR’ go?

Hugo Mir, growth strategist at Expert Teleportation, spoke in tandem with Duroch at the April conference. He said his firm was testing satellite connections for the most remote locations in which TechnipFMC works.

Once Expert Teleportation “cracks” the combination needed to provide remote experts in the most extreme locations steady connectivity, “we’ll be able to implement our solutions everywhere” and reduce the typical equipment-malfunction response time companies like TechnipFMC experience to 30 minutes from two-plus days, Mir said.

Expert Teleportation does not make equipment; it can integrate with smart glasses, helmet endoscopes, “whatever enables you to transmit what is happening in real-time,” he said. He calls the company’s technology “audio augmented reality—because you’ll have auditory input from someone who can see visually what’s happening.

“We won’t be putting little green arrows in front of you to show you where the technical problem is,” as happens in standard augmented reality applications, Mir said. With Expert Teleportation, “everything is based on who is going to guide you, who is going to help you orally while driving, because you will have your own earpiece, the person guiding you will see what’s going on, and they will ask you to move to certain places to repair the breakdown.”

Almost ready to roll, in Los Angeles

Expert Teleportation, which employs 18 people today and envisions employing 40 people in 18 months, opened a demo and sales office in downtown Los Angeles in July. The office provides a vantage point in “one of the most industrial places, for aerospace and oil and gas,” in the U.S., as well as factories in Mexico—and is relatively close venture capitalists in San Francisco, Pedro said.

But before Pedro takes on teleportation competitors in the U.S. like Facebook and Microsoft, he said, he needs what Business France is offering: cultural acclimatization.

“We have many cultural differences with American people,” he added. “In manufacturing, people in France focus on everything that can fail. We really want to avoid failure. In the U.S., people want to succeed, and they focus on succeeding. In the U.S., If you know there are some risks and you see there are some benefits, you say, ‘OK, we will try.’ In France, just to start, you need to find all possible problems and solve them first.”

It all adds up to French products that arrive later but are more robust, Pedro said. “We hope to bring this reliability and become more attached” to manufacturing operations in the U.S.

 

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