Blog | October 25, 2016

More Wearables For Industrial Apps

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies

Industrial Wearable Apps

New data from ABI Research indicates that wearables are a rowing presence in field service and other industrial applications. According to the company, the warehouse, manufacturing and field services verticals represent one-quarter of the wearable devices shipped to enterprise end users in 2016.

You can read more about the report, Wearable Tech in Industrial and Field Services Markets, here.

Wearables have begun working their way into field service applications for the past several years. SAP and Salesforce.com offer wearable apps for their field service solutions. A number of end users, including micro-turbine manufacturer JetHeat, are using wearables for maintenance and service operations.

ABI expects to see more of that activity. The company forecasts that shipments to industrial and service segments will more than triple to 35 million units in 2021. According to ABI, wearable devices can easily be integrated into gear that employees are already using on the job or in the field.

“Many occupations require specialized equipment, such as scrubs for medical professionals working in urgent care or protective eyewear for engineers in manufacturing; there’s no reason why these shouldn’t be connected,” said Ryan Martin, senior analyst at ABI Research. “The fundamental difference between the consumer and enterprise contexts is that the current cohort of consumer wearables center on the marginal and subjective value of convenience, while in the enterprise, they’re viewed as a tool.”

Other research also reflects increasing interest in using wearables for line-of-business applications. A VDC Research survey from last year indicated that 27 percent of respondents currently support wearables, and 19 percent plan to in the future. Roughly 15 percent of respondents in our own recent field mobility service also said they were planning to research wearables within the next year. (You can read more about our field mobility survey in the December issue of Field Technologies.)

Wearable computers allow technicians to access data while still keeping their hands free to perform repairs. They can also be used with head-worn displays (like smart glasses) to provide visual access to schematics or repair instructions.

Last year, editor Sarah Nicastro spoke to KONE, a leading elevator/escalator company, about plans to use wearables in its field service operation. John Barr, head of global development and information technology for KONE Americas, described the types of uses the company saw for wearables in the future.

“Two of the great characteristics about wearables that really make them attractive to us is that they can’t be dropped and they are always readily available (which is appealing especially in job situations when both hands are busy working),” Barr said. “These wearables also provide an exponentially rich and contextually aware interaction. A great example is that most wearable interaction is reduced down to pressing a button or using voice recognition and commands.”

According to ABI, wearable technology would replace legacy mobile solutions with digital eyewear that interacts with augmented reality solutions or “assisted reality” systems that either provide a digital overlay showing repair information or schematics, text, diagrams, checklists, and other data that can help with the repair (like service history, etc.).

Wearables will also intersect with Internet of Things (IoT) technology by providing data from smart assets or sensors that can be used in conjunction with AR.

“Scalable, remote collaboration drives better service at lower cost,” ABI’s Martin said. “Wearables make IoT data not only actionable but also efficient when used in multi-device IoT ecosystems.”

You can see more of our coverage of wearable devices here.