Industrial wearable devices are tools designed to improve workplace productivity, safety, and efficiency in sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, and mining. These devices collect data in real time, track activities, provide alerts, and provide customized experiences depending on the users' needs and organizational objectives. They are typically designed for specific situations or industry verticals, as opposed to consumer wearables which are often general in function. Industrial wearables can be designed to aid a worker in performing specific tasks or to measure health parameters for working in dangerous environments. In addition to performing a specific function for their wearer, the devices can be linked to enterprise systems. For example, linking wearables worn by employees in hazardous environments to employee welfare programs can be used to track and provide evidence of the wellbeing of employees, thereby reducing health insurance costs.
- CASE STUDIES
Intel: Wearables for Connected WorkersTogether, Honeywell and Intel have developed a IoT proof of concept (PoC) for the Connected Worker. The Connected Worker can take many forms - factory laborer, mine worker, first responder, firefighters and more. For each environment and worker role, a different selection of sensors may be appropriate to provide the most meaningful IoT-fueled dataset to represent that individual worker asset. As with most IoT solutions, it is critical to avoid being overwhelmed by a steady stream of meaningless data. Rather, it is essential to send select actionable intelligence to the cloud for visualization and customized alert notifications. The downside is that data from individual wearable devices - if viewed independently - can potentially cause false alarms and contribute to inefficiencies in a manpower as a result. Fusing sensor technology with big data processing (hub/gateway), analytics - all in the cloud - is the key to improving local intelligence as well as remote visualization of actionable intelligence.Accenture: Airbus Soars with Wearable TechnologyBuilding an Airbus aircraft involves complex manufacturing processes consisting of thousands of moving parts. Speed and accuracy are critical to business and competitive advantage. Improvements in both would have high impact on Airbus’ bottom line. Airbus wanted to help operators reduce the complexity of assembling cabin seats and decrease the time required to complete this task.National Instruments: Hyundai Wearable Robotics for Walking AssistanceThe Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute at Hyundai Motor Company develops future mobility technologies. Rather than provide conventional vehicle products to customers, this research center creates new mobility devices with a wide range of speeds for a variety of people, including the elderly and the disabled. As our society ages, there is a greater need for systems that can aid mobility. Thus, we are developing wearable exoskeleton robots with NI embedded controllers for the elderly and patients with spinal cord injuries to use.Key ChallengeDeveloping a system that can handle complex control algorithms to capture data remotely from various sensors simultaneously and perform real-time control of multiple actuators for a wearable robotics device for walking assistance.
- MARKET SIZE
The global industrial wearable devices market is expected to grow at a CAGR close to 11% from 2018 to 2022.
The market value of industrial wearable devices is projected to exceed US$ 2.6 Billion by 2023, expanding at a CAGR of 9.6% from 2018 to 2023.
Source: Research and Market
- BUSINESS VIEWPOINT
How do industrial wearable devices provide business value?
Industrial wearables are becoming increasingly common due to the steady decline in component costs and improvements in functionality driven by learning from the consumer sector. Industrial wearables have been used to increase efficiency, improve safety, shorten communication loops, accelerate onboarding and training processes, and enable remote experts to confer on technical issues. Specific applications include:
- Increasing plant efficiency: Tracking employee movements allows processes to be redesigned and optimized to improve plant efficiency.
- Improving safety: Wearable devices can be used to detect injuries, falls, or the presence of toxic gases and to notify employees or management when a safety risk is present. They can also help to make sure rotation occurs as planned to minimize the risk of injury due to fatigue or excess repetition.
- Shortening communication loops: Industrial wearables can ensure that staff has the information they need when in situations where a mobile phone or computer-based communication is not feasible. Safety alerts, text messages, and data feeds can be sent to the person as needed.
- Reinventing training: When onboarding and training new employees, wearable technology can act as a training aid. Remote expert systems allow a trainer to ‘see’ through the eyes of a new hire or to send reminders and instructions at specific times.
- Leveraging remote experts: Wearables can allow remote experts to advise and guide on-site staff. This can bring niche expertise to remote facilities in minutes instead of the days that can be required to arrange cross-border travel.
- STAKEHOLDER VIEWPOINT
- TECHNOLOGY VIEWPOINT
What industrial devices are currently available or are in late stages of development?
Head-mounted wearables combine mobile computing, video input, guided work instructions, access to remote experts and other functionality to guide operators in their tasks. These systems are currently expensive and face challenges related to weight and inconvenience. However, as the form factor improves they will likely become ubiquitous in specific operating environments.
Hands-free wristwear provides industrial workers easy access to live data, documents, work procedures and video, as well as connections to remote experts while they are out in the plant or field. These devices can be as small as a watch but large form factors enable significantly richer information to be communicated. They are often the size of a small smartphone.
Augmented reality glasses have enormous potential to train workers or support guided maintenance or operations in a variety of industrial settings, including factories, warehouses, and construction sites.
What do industrial wearable devices use to transmit data?
Many wearable monitoring devices use a low-range RF signal to transmit data. Typically, they are connected to the IoT cloud solutions through an IoT gateway or a mobile app. Wearable devices stream processed and unprocessed data continuously and are expected to work constantly, irrespective of the availability of Internet connection. This creates technology challenges related to volume and offline processing of data.
- DATA VIEWPOINT
- DEPLOYMENT CHALLENGES
What challenges face industrial wearable manufacturers?
Common challenges include the management of power consumption on devices with limited battery space and long operational requirements. The form factor also presents communication challenges. Wearables must communicate data audibly, via light indicators, or via a small screen. This can lead to miscommunication. It is essential to send concise actionable intelligence to the user in a way that can be easily interpreted.
What challenges face companies that purchase wearables for their employees?
Workplace culture and adoption are frequently a challenge for early adopters. The purpose of the wearable device must be clearly communicated to avoid pushback from employees due to privacy concerns.
There are also cybersecurity concerns related to the proliferation of endpoints that are connected to enterprise systems. Industrial wearables can present hackers with an entry point when they are able to send operational data to other systems. The rise of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies will exacerbate this cybersecurity challenge. Enterprises already face security-related complexities in permitting camera-equipped smartphones to be used at work. BYOD policies may not have to cover wearables as well.
What challenges face industrial wearable users?
Meeting accessibility requirements for wearables is an important issue because of the limited interface options. Visual interfaces are complicated by variable lighting conditions and voice interfaces on wearable devices can fail due to vocal accents or impaired speech. The interface limitations mean that users must be trained to correctly interpret inbound signals and formulate outbound messages.