The promise of IoT in automotive diagnostics

Microsoft and CraneMorley are working to help technicians successfully carry out maintenance procedures using HoloLens and IoT

Thomas Pratt
By Thomas Pratt on 26 May 2021
The promise of IoT in automotive diagnostics
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Most people don’t pay attention to on-board diagnostics (OBD), that is, until the dreaded ‘check engine’ light comes on. What does this mean? It could be caused by a loose fuel cap or could indicate you have a serious engine problem. To today’s automotive technician it means a lot; it provides a sophisticated diagnostic path to the most difficult repair challenges. 

An OBD-II tool can be used to identify vehicle issues. With one in hand and a Snap-on tool chest close by, the technician moves back and forth, puzzling through data read-outs, making adjustments until he diagnoses the problem, performs the repair and verifies it with his OBD-II tool. Unfortunately, this is not the most efficient process. 

What if the technician could work ‘head up and hands free’?  What if data read-outs automatically indicated the right repair procedure and guided him through the process? Being unfamiliar with the repair procedure, what if he has the option to take a five-minute skills-based lesson to remove any guesswork? How would this affect repair time, level of skill required and assurance that the problem will be fixed correctly the first time? That would be great in the future, right? 

Well, the future is here with Microsoft HoloLens and its internet of things capabilities. CraneMorley is working on a proof of concept with Microsoft that will display OBD-II readouts on the HoloLens headset as the technician works on the car. This removes the need for users to go back and forth between a tablet readout and tools. Once the problem is diagnosed, the most efficient path is laid out, enabling technicians of varying levels of experience to quickly fix the problem. 

Enabling the technician to see data that is relevant to an efficient diagnosis and repair is essential to the automotive industry’s service mantra: ‘fix it right the first time’.  This is essential in delivering customer satisfaction, which contributes to brand loyalty and improved ­profitability.  

James Heideman is senior automotive consultant and Thomas Pratt is president at CraneMorley

This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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