Since the launch of the Apple Watch in 2015, wearable tech has continued to grow – with 504 million devices expected to be sold by 2021, according to a forecast from Gartner. Here Phil Simmonds, Group Managing Director of EC Electronics ponders what wearables could do in the industrial landscape.
Personal wearables already provide us with innovative solutions to everyday problems – performing a wide range of functions from logging exercise and heart rate to monitoring sleep and temperature. But these devices are no longer reserved only for improving lifestyle conditions.
Given this popularity, it was only a matter of time before the technology found its way into the workplace. Widespread recognition that improved employee wellbeing can increase productivity has meant many companies are beginning to take extra steps to keep their workers happy. Uses are also emerging such as safety and efficiency.
Revolutionising the factory floor
Although wearable tech isn’t commonplace in warehouses and factories just yet, devices are set to transform these work environments over the coming years. The Wearable Tech Study found that 64% of the manufacturers surveyed expected to be ‘fully connected’ by 2022 – while 55% of those already using this technology planned to increase the use of wearable devices over the same time period.
There are a number of beneficial uses for wearable tech in a factory or warehouse setting. For example, communication can be improved through smart glasses which visibly transmit step-by-step manufacturing instructions – while two-way audio headsets can give users real-time notifications applicable to their activities on the floor. Other wearables such as fitness trackers can also monitor health and stress levels of employees. And GPS or beacon technology can help to locate workers and prevent them from entering dangerous zones.
This combination of wearables and connected monitoring systems will not only increase automation (ultimately saving manufacturers money in a competitive industry) – but it will also improve the wellbeing and safety of employees while enabling factories to have a real-time overview of their production output.
In fact, companies that have begun adopting wearable technology have already experienced enhanced productivity levels. DHL’s picking process improved by 25%, for instance – after it introduced augmented reality glasses, which scan barcodes more efficiently and reduce the rate of human error, into its warehouses.
And wearable tech isn’t just for factories or warehouses either; companies with office environments, remote workers or drivers on the road can also benefit. These devices produce huge volumes of data, which can be leveraged in a number of ways such as pinpointing downtime trends, improving hot-desking and identifying physical improvements to the workplace to coordinate better shift patterns.
Of course, these are just some examples of what can be done with these devices. In reality, the sector is only just getting started – and we have no doubt that wearable tech will play an increasingly big part in factories and workplaces of the future.