From the comfort of their sofa or home office, Vodafone engineers can now use augmented reality to securely test new network services situated in any one of our three main network labs.
Simon Naylor, Network Labs Programme Authority, Vodafone, with Eyes in the Lab. An engineer at home is seeing what Simon can see through the glasses and is advising on changes he needs to make.
With the onset of Covid-19, Vodafone’s Network Strategy and Engineering team drew on their software engineering expertise - gained from managing Vodafone’s network labs in Germany, Italy, and the UK - to provide colleagues with remote access using innovative augmented reality technology.
Enter Lab@Home, which was developed by Vodafone and its partner CapGemini Engineering in less than three months during the first lockdown, last year. Lab@Home is exactly that. It allows our engineers to test and validate new mobile network capabilities on a range of smartphones located in the lab. This ensures our customers get all the benefits of the mobile and the network, even during lockdowns. It is also well protected as it uses a cyber-secure link only accessible by authorised personnel.
Vivian Sunmola, software engineering apprentice at Vodafone, setting up the remote testing of network features on a range of smartphones in the lab.
The service has been so successful Vodafone is now making Lab@Home available to many more network vendors and start-ups so that they test their own equipment, no matter where they are located in the world. This means they can launch their new products and service for use by our 300 million mobile customers without delay. It will also help smaller tech firms and application developers compete with larger equipment vendors.
Each lab is now supporting more than 70% of its testing remotely at any given time, with plans to further increase this amount as employees mix working from home with commuting to the office, or the lab. Not only has Vodafone been able to continue to encourage effective social distancing, Lab@Home has also helped to reduce long commutes and associated travel costs.
Dave Hutcheson, Network Labs Senior Manager, Vodafone, configuring a shielded room to support remote testing using smartphones, Newbury, UK.
In a similar timeframe, our engineers also introduced Eyes in the Lab. It uses a blend of augmented and virtual reality software to enable an engineer at home to direct and support a lab-based colleague wearing a VR-headset. Due to the need to carry out complex tasks, this previously often required engineers to be on site with the lab colleague.
Eyes in the Lab has been used by Vodafone to complement the launch of major products and services, including becoming the first company in Europe to launch 5G standalone networks – the next evolution of 5G - and multi-access edge computing (MEC). It also enabled Vodafone to lead in the testing of new Open Radio Access Network (RAN) software and hardware.
Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh said: “This year and last have been a learning opportunity for us all. As the world recovers from the destruction of COVID-19, we must not forget the societal benefits digital connectivity provided during lockdowns and apply them to allow people to better balance their work and home life.”
Both Lab@Home and Eyes in the Lab support Vodafone’s future ready strategy to use its geographical scale to increase the opportunities for employees to work from different countries, and support partners, governments, and business customers.
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