As COVID-19 cases spread across the globe, Librestream popped up to keep medical professionals safe with its Onsight remote streaming software and Onsight Cube thermal camera that can be added to wearables for remote patient temperature screening. Today, the company announced a $24 million funding round to expand Onsight’s footprint while using AI to improve its capabilities.
Librestream offers enterprises a platform to connect multiple workers for the gathering and processing of photos, videos, and sensor readings. But the ongoing challenge is transferring the best possible data from the field into remote offices staffed by expert analysts. “We want to digitize that person out in the field,” Librestream CEO John Bishop told VentureBeat ahead of the announcement. “Whatever they’re seeing, whatever they’re hearing, whatever the gauges look like at the point of service — at that point where they physically are, we want to bring all that information in to allow another person to come in and help them solve the problem.” The Industry 4.0 twist, Bishop says, is going beyond what the human technician sees and hears by aggregating system-level information and IoT sensor data.
Onsight benefits from 15 years of experience in optimizing data transfers for impressively challenging, old school network conditions. “We had to have adaptive bandwidth techniques that could work in the hardest environments,” Bishop explained, “like oil rigs and deserts and things like that.” Under the worst circumstances, Onsight can enable a live low-resolution video and full-resolution photo streaming connection for a worker on an offshore oil rig, even using only a fraction of the rig’s classic 56Kbps modem bandwidth. “Fifteen years later,” he said, “the biggest challenge still is that no matter how much bandwidth someone has, it’s never quite enough.”
While wearables are the latest and most widely photographed way remote workers are capturing data, Bishop notes that 90% of Onsight XR field use is coming from tablets and smartphones, with wearables currently accounting for 10%, collectively — including Microsoft’s HoloLens, RealWear, and Vuzix headsets. But the pandemic has accelerated interest in AR technology. Librestream has seen a 433% spike in global usage since March 2020, and — citing a Gartner study — expects two out of three large field service organizations to equip technicians with XR applications by 2023, up from under 1% in 2019.
The next stage, Bishop suggests, is to leverage AI to automate some of the data-gathering process, as well as the first stage interaction between the field technician and remote office. Librestream’s plan is to “digitize the data behind the field worker,” using computer vision and other tricks to help a worker quickly transform gauge readings or other visually gathered information into actionable data. For aircraft maintenance alone, that could take the form of analyzing audio samples to detect structural defects in the plane’s body, scanning a QR code to match a company’s known part against its database, or using machine learning to quickly identify an unknown part that needs emergency attention.
For instance, a trained AI-CV system could recognize a Pratt & Whitney T-1000 aircraft engine, saving remote or office techs the need to manually sort through options. Bishop expects that in the future “my first call — my first lifeline for support or a digital sign off — [won’t be] a person at all, it’s more of an AI agent. That’s what the current company trajectory and investment profile looks like, so it’s pretty exciting.”
Using its series D funding, Librestream expects to increase its headcount by at least 50% over the next 24 months to meet demand for Onsight services, including development of new customer bases in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. The company reports it saw over 250% growth in customer deployments within North America and Europe over the past three years. These include numerous blue chip enterprise users, ranging from Airbus, BP, and CAT to ExxonMobile, Honeywell, Pfizer, Siemens, Toyota, Verizon, and Volvo.
The latest round was led by the Canadian Business Growth Fund, with new investors Pender Fund and Export Development Canada. It brings the Winnipeg, Canada-based company’s total funding to over $55 million.