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Roundtable "Augmented Reality in Pharma" - Key Take-aways

On January 15 Goodly Innovations and NNIT hosted the first roundtable to discuss the benefits, usage and operations of augmented reality solutions in pharmaceutical production and laboratory environment among industry experts.

The discussions at this first AR roundtable have confirmed: Augmented Reality is a high-potential technology, also in the pharmaceutical industry, but that the industry is facing some challenges to be mastered: AR devices in the cleanroom, process maturity, regulatory requirements, to mention just a few.

With the AR in Pharma Roundtable we created a platform and a community to discuss important AR-related topics with early adopters and experts from the pharmaceutical industry with focus on interactivity and knowledge sharing.

Topics of the first AR Roundtable have been:

  • AR & smart devices for the pharma and biopharma environment, presented by Tobias Rodenfels from Boehringer Ingelheim

  • GDPR and electronic digital image records, presented by Eckhard Herych from NNIT

  • Digital Process Maturity - Assess performance, define priorities, derive actions and clean-up before digitalizing waste, presented by Marten Ritz from the University of St. Gallen

The 30 participants of this first AR Roundtable were coming from various pharmaceutical companies like Almirall, Astellas, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Fresenius, GSK, Hoffmann La-Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Takeda, and Xelia.

Key take-aways from the Roundtable

Benefits by AR

AR will make the pharmaceutical industry faster and better by:

  • providing improved operator guidance,

  • presenting information to operators without disrupting their current activities,

  • automating the documentation of key operations activities.

Using AR in a production environment reduces significantly non-value adding activities and avoids stress for the whole organization.

Less stress and reducing the probability of making mistakes lead to an increasing level of perfection and less deviations.

AR in the Smart Pharma Factory

The Smart Factory is defined as the “Future state of a fully connected manufacturing system, mainly operating without human force by generating, transferring, receiving and processing necessary data to conduct all required tasks for producing all kinds of goods.” (source: Osterrieder, Budde & Friedli (2019)).

Before investing into digitalization, we need to understand what the expected business impact will be by assessing the current maturity level of the factory. Digitalization requires a holistic approach instead of digitizing individual processes:

Digitalization is not a purpose in itself or the cure to business challenges but can be a powerful enabler for improvement

GDPR compliance with AR applications

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also impacts the use of AR in a professional environment. GDPR risks that need to be considered and mitigated before applying AR technology are:

  • Motion profiles of individuals that might be created

  • Potential misuse of AR devices for video surveillance

  • Introduction of AR technology is subject to agreements with the works council in many countries and ruled by local laws (e.g. § 87(1) BetrVG in Germany)

  • Determination of who has access to the information collected by AR devices

  • Possibility of manipulating data and information collected via AR devices (data integrity)

Recommendations to mitigate the GDPR risks associated with AR technology are

  • Adopt a „Privacy by Design and Default“ approach

  • Identify, document, and test the purpose of data processing, data elements captured, retention and disposal of information

  • Make GDPR requirements a standard in your AR projects


We had a very lively, engaged and interesting discussion on the various topics and the experts from all companies. As Augmented Reality is obviously a technology that has a lot of attention in the pharmaceutical industry we agreed commonly to create a community to continue sharing experience and best practices and repeat the AR Roundtable later in 2021. If you would like to be part of the AR in Pharma community and / or attend the next AR in Pharma Roundtable, please drop us a message.


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