Looking smart

Valerie Riffaud-Cangelosi takes a look at Industrial Wearable Technology – the market, the benefits, and predictions for 2020

The market for industrial wearable technology – tools designed to improve workplace productivity, safety and efficiency – has been experiencing a steady growth rate in the last few years. It’s projected to grow from $1.1 billion this year to $8.6 billion in 2024 – representing a huge compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

The growing prevalence of wearable devices within the consumer market has been one of the key trends of the last few years – for example, wearable technology is being used to good effect in education and events/attractions – and this is set to continue in 2020. However, its adoption is also set to explode in business, and particularly industrial settings. Though virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology deployment has traditionally focused on gaming and other consumer uses, it also offers real benefits to a broad range of industries, including manufacturing.

Consumer tech for a business setting
Smart glasses are a key example of the wearable’s technology being used in industrial settings. They are leading the way when it comes to industrial wearables, and are at the forefront of innovation, offering a range of applications and uses. Smart glasses harness the power of AR to deliver cost savings and business efficiencies, empowering workforces to complete tasks more quickly and accurately, as well as upskilling workers. In factories and manual labour settings, these glasses are a game-changer, as workers need to have their hands free to execute tasks within the factory. With ongoing technological changes and advances in industrial settings, there’s a crucial need to upskill workers on an ongoing basis – which can be a real headache, given the amount of training required and number of people involved.

They also help organisations meet specific business challenges and needs. Remote assistance is one of the primary use-cases for smart glasses – and where this technology is having a particularly positive impact, thanks to advanced ‘see what I see’ technology. The global designer, manufacturer, and distributor of machinery solutions for the flexible packaging market Comexi, as well as Marchesini, a world leader in pharmaceutical and cosmetic machinery manufacturing, are just two companies using smart glasses to closes the skills gap between service engineers, and to bridge the distance between businesses and their customers.

Given the intensive usage of industrial machines, servicing and maintenance is inevitable and may even lead to downtime. Specialist technicians have traditionally had to travel and sometimes have had to even be flown out to different companies to provide fixes and repairs – at great cost and inconvenience. However, remote assistance technology is changing this. Now, deskless workers in the field – be they technicians, operators or warehouse workers – can connect in real-time through video streaming with an expert. The expert receives a live video feed from the glasses, and can then look at the problem, passing information and instructions visually and verbally using live two-way communication to remedy complex issues. Remote technicians can even receive documents and user guides straight to the smart glasses. This improves efficiency, whilst reducing support and travel costs and the amount of machine downtime. Glasses range from those that are light and easy to use and those that are rugged and durable and c n be worn on helmets to suit the environments they are being used in.

In this way, smart glasses and other industrial wearables can enable firms to create a more efficient, cost-effective business – and can empower workforces in other ways, too. Wearable technology can also be used for remote training, upskilling workers whilst improving overall profitability. Some firms have found that wearable devices can cut training time by 30-50 per cent – time that can then be redeployed for profit-driving tasks.

The future of industrial wearables
Smart glasses will continue to lead the wearables market in 2020, but this technology needs to be taken more seriously by IT decision-makers in industrial settings. Though smart glasses are often perceived as gimmicky or simply ‘nice to have’ gadgets, they solve real business problems and help companies meet business objectives.

Drones will also have a bigger role to play in industrial and manufacturing settings next year – and beyond. Drones not only eliminate inherent safety risks – associated with lifting a human up to high racking to scan bar codes, and around shelves full of often heavy products – but there also isn’t the same need for training for this technology, as forklifts require certification and licenses. And, where drones are present, smart glasses also have a role to play, as they work effectively in tandem with the drones, controlling and monitoring them to deliver optimal business benefits. This combination of technologies can be used not only in factory/industrial environments, but also in critical, life-saving industries, from firefighting to search and rescue operations.

In 2020, there needs to be a mind shift on industrial wearable technology by decision-makers across all industries. These tools are cost- and efficiency-saving solutions that can help revolutionise the industrial sector – which has been typically slower to adopt digital transformation strategies and technologies. In order to pave the way for future growth, businesses must recognise the myriad benefits that this technology they can bring – and invest in them.

Valerie Riffaud-Cangelosi
Valerie Riffaud-Cangelosi is Head of New Market Development for Moverio smartglasses, Epson. Epson is a global technology leader dedicated to becoming indispensable to society by connecting people, things and information with its original efficient, compact and precision technologies. The company is focused on driving innovations and exceeding customer expectations in inkjet, visual communications, wearables and robotics. Epson is proud of its contributions to realising a sustainable society and its ongoing efforts to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.