Think that wearable technology such as Google Glass or smartwatches is just a fad? Think again. In fact, shipments of wearable devices are predicted to be almost 130 million by 2018 – ten times higher than earlier predictions – says Juniper Research in its report Smart Wearable Devices: Fitness, Healthcare, Entertainment & Enterprise: 2013-2018, writes Information Age. People are already starting to think about ways that wearable technology can be used in manufacturing. Here are some examples.
- Video applications. If your company uses cameras to monitor the shop floor or employees, then there’s a potential application for hands-free, first person point-of-view wearable technology that includes a camera, writes IMPO. “Because most devices on the market now allow you to stream footage in real-time and save the content for later reference, wearable technologies could be a good investment as a quality control solution,” the publication notes.
- Employee monitoring. Worried about employee safety? Wearable technology can help keep track of what’s going on with them, writes Enterprise Efficiency. “Imagine a system that would allow you to see that somewhere along your line, productivity is being slowed by fatigued workers,” the publication writes. “Monitoring their ‘work rate’ or their body for fatigue may allow you to get the most out of your workers by changing their break schedules.” That could also result in fewer injuries, the publication adds.
- Field service. Gartner research director Angela McIntyre predicts that wearables could help personnel diagnose and repair problems more quickly, saving up to $1 billion annually in three to five years.
- Plant monitoring. Wearable technology means that keeping track of what’s happening on the line doesn’t mean being tied to a computer, writes IMPO. “You’d wear a panel that fits seamlessly around your forearm that could display line speed, provide you with notifications of upcoming maintenance, or give you warnings when a component fails,” the publication notes.
- Improving employee safety. The ability of wearable technology to operate machinery remotely offers the promise of keeping employees away from dangerous things. “If one can operate a garage door remotely, why not any piece of equipment?” writes Enterprise Efficiency. “Imagine, for instance, your assembly line workers behind safety glass, doing their work at a safe distance from spinning blades and caustic chemicals. Or, using wearable computers with a [heads up] display to quickly move supplies around the line with eye movements to avoid slowdowns.”
As we’ve discussed in the past, having a “human touch” in manufacturing is often times invaluable. However, there’s no denying that as technology (including wearables) continues to evolve, there could be a number of benefits to the manufacturing industry.
Steve Leavitt, GM of U.S. Cloud Solutions for Exact