Wearable Technology & the Workplace

Wearable technology – this recent technological trend has lead to wristbands, eyeglasses, and other wearable tech gadgets designed to improve our productivity and manage our lives. But can this technology make its way into the industrial workplace? There are a few companies that think it can.

This wearable technology has made its way into many industries, with employees using these advancements to better themselves and their work. But one question that has arisen in the midst of these advancements is whether this technology can be embraced by workers in an industrial setting.

Is it possible to use these types of technology in an industrial workplace? Can warehouse, factory, or dock workers benefit from these advancements in such a way as to improve productivity or safety? Many companies have been asking these questions and a couple have developed gadgets in an attempt to merge this technological phenomenon with the industrial workplace.

There are many reasons why wearable technology can be a problem in this type of environment. It is very easy for these devices to become a distraction. Having the ability to use a device with multiple functions and an internet connection can prove hazardous to workers in a fast-paced environment. Additionally, something like Google Glass could be unrealistic because it can cause problems if there is something blocking a worker’s line of vision. For a time there was an idea that voice activated devices could be the solution to the line of vision problem but that type of tool is problematic in an environment with loud machinery.

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These types of problems need to be taken into consideration when developing a type of wearable technology beneficial to the industrial workplace. Companies need to develop tools that are non-distracting, non-disruptive, and performance enhancing. There are 2 companies currently working on devices that could fulfill these features and bring wearable technology into this environment, Salow and OnGrade.

Salow has developed a product called the XOne. This is a pair of smartglasses designed to help warehouse workers increase productivity and resolve workflow issues. They decided to develop a pair of glasses in order to avoid adding anything to worker uniforms, instead they wanted to alter something that worker’s already wear and make it technologically advanced. They chose the safety glasses. These tech glasses are still certified safety glasses but include technological features including barcode scanning, video and audio telepresence, and biometrics tracking in order to help identify and resolve workflow issues.

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OnGrade has developed a product called the SiteZone Proximity Warning System. This is a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder that was developed to increase safety in the workplace. The technology works by transferring information from the transponder (worn by workers) to a small device placed in the work vehicles. If the workers are within the designated safety bubble of the vehicle while it is being operated both the pedestrian worker and the driver receive a warning via vibration, audio, and visual alerts, in order to prevent any collision. This wearable device is different from what Salow wanted to do in that it is an extra gadget that is clipped onto the worker’s hard hat or sleeve.

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This product is designed to work in conjunction with the safety plan outlined by the company and the worker safety training. The device also logs any incidents of pedestrian workers entering into the safety bubbles of a machine in order to help chart near misses and change behaviours. OnGrade believes if they can show workers how often incidents can happen it will help to make workers more alert to their surroundings and to potential workplace hazards.

Both Salow and OnGrade are developing technologies that will help to increase productivity and protect industrial workers. If these companies are able to create devices that are non-disruptive and non-distracting that are still able to enhance performance and increase safety for workers it will be a huge accomplishment in bringing wearable technology into the industrial workplace and will allow workers in factory, warehouse, and dock environments to embrace these technological advancements in a way that is safe and beneficial to their industry.

 

Sources:

http://www.industryweek.com/technology/can-wearable-tech-work-factory?page=2

http://www.shponline.co.uk/health-and-safety-innovation-wearable-tech-changing-hearts-and-minds/