Recent Advancements Improve Autonomous Visual Inspection’s Industrial Capabilities

August 08, 2023 by Stephanie Leonida

We take a look at the latest visual inspection technologies from Boston Dynamics and Telit Cinterion.

Spot Gets an Industrial Grade Sniffer

What’s this? Boston Dynamics has released the latest version (3.3) of its school bus yellow Spot robot, introducing new features and improvements to its autonomous facility inspection capabilities. Global IoT solutions provider, Telit Cinterion (TC) also announced the advanced visual inspection technologies for manufacturing. Recently, the company released an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven visual inspection solution designed to enhance productivity and quality control, deviceWISE.


Now banana peel-proof, Spot has new hardware and software updates for slippery floor navigation, enhanced inspection, and safety.

Now banana peel-proof, Spot has new hardware and software updates for slippery floor navigation, enhanced inspection, and safety. Image used courtesy of Boston Dynamics


Visual and Physical Security Features

The latest version of Spot incorporates an improved audio and visual signaling system in addition to an added physical emergency stop button to provide added safety to collaborative operators. Spot features safety lights, a buzzer, and a speaker to interact and operate safely within proximity to co-workers. To communicate diverse settings, the system uses a variety of light patterns and tones:

  • A green flashing pattern during routine robot operation acts as a signal of its typical mission tasks.
  • White flashing lights indicate the robot's continuing inspection activities inside the facility. 
  • An amber blinking pattern when extra caution is required as the robot negotiates stairs, junctions, or potentially dangerous areas.


Gas Detection and Rapid Response

Gas leaks are a chronic and potentially dangerous problem, especially those processing volatile and toxic gases. Industrial facilities can average leak rates as high as 30%, according to Boston Dynamics. These leaks can significantly increase maintenance and repair costs and decrease revenue due to unwanted downtime. 

Spot employs acoustic imagers while autonomously conducting its inspection patrols, enabling it to listen for sound anomalies emitted by undetectable electrical discharges and gas leaks. So what happens when Spot identifies a leak in an oil and gas facility? How does the bot accommodate safety standards? With a little help from an industrial standard gas detector/analyzer system.

A great example of Spot’s detection capabilities and safety conscientious operation can be gleaned from the bot’s employment at a midstream gas plant. For this environment, Spot was equipped with the FLIR MUVE C360 multi-gas detector to detect gases and analyze data. The detector integrates a Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) detector to determine the minimal amount of gas or vapor required to set off a fire within the proximity of an ignition source.


Upon detecting the LEL threshold, Spot shut down immediately to minimize the risk of ignition and possible damage to facility assets in hazardous industrial environments. Operators can execute acoustic checks from a tablet and examine the findings via Scout with the Fluke SV600 payload for Spot. By serving as a proactive alert system, SV600 enables rapid problem recognition and correction. Users can reduce energy costs and avoid equipment failure by establishing alarms to find and locate gas and air leaks or changes in sound signatures, assuring uninterrupted operations.


Thermal and Visual Inspection

Spot uses a thermal inspection camera and a high-resolution pan-tilt-zoom camera (as part of the CAM+IR payload) to digitize and analyze analog gauge displays, detect any anomalies in readings, and monitor/report on physical damage to assets. 

Users have access to a thorough thermal inspection workflow with Spot version 3.3. Customers can now capture numerous locations of interest in a single snap and access rich post-inspection data in addition to Scout alerts for equipment violating restrictions.

Operators can create alerts for temperature discrepancies in up to three places while doing an inspection review and comparing temperatures over the entire image. This is useful for inspections involving numerous targets that demand constant temperatures. Additionally, operators can initiate autonomous inspection routines faster because of Scout's ability to change thermal imaging parameters later down the line.


Banana Peel-Proof Agility

Boston Dynamics has modified the way Spot moves on slippery surfaces by adjusting the bot’s gait. In crawl mode, Spot creeps forward one foot at a time to maximize stability and traction on slick, uncertain surfaces while maintaining a safe working environment. An engaging short video from Boston Dynamics illustrates Spot’s careful footwork as it walks safely across a slippery floor and a piece of banana peel. 


Telit’s deviceWISE

Perhaps not as glamorous as Spot, Telit Cinterion's deviceWISE gathers visual inspection information from various manufacturing facility floor sensors and incorporates the data into analytics platforms. According to TC, users can generate front-line insights to support Industry 4.0 operations and just-in-time manufacturing.

The system makes use of visual AI technologies and the NVIDIA Metropolis stack, comprising the DeepStream SDK, TensorRT SDK, and NVIDIA Jetson edge AI platform. This combination allows manufacturers to spot problems like missing bolts, incorrectly fitted product badges, poor welds, out-of-round seams, and more, ultimately ensuring more stringent quality control. The deviceWISE system is due for release in the third quarter of 2023.