Wearables have long since also gained a foothold in business. Great expectations are placed in the miniature electronic assistants in industry especially, as part of the Smart Factory and Industry 4.0 trends. Experts and businesses which are already trialling the use of wearables see particularly strong potential in so-called “smart glasses”. These intelligent glasses are able to communicate over the Internet, providing the wearer with continually updated information on the work at hand in a quick and easy way. The miniature devices reveal their full potential especially in conjunction with augmented reality, whereby information from the Internet is integrated into the wearer’s field of vision. This makes everyday working not only easier, but also safer and much more efficient.
A variety of technologies are being trialled to work with smart glasses. Key concerns in this are that the field of vision should not be restricted as far as possible, and colours should not be distorted. Another key objective is to minimise weight and cost. This is being achieved through two competing technologies: either the data is displayed in the field of vision by way of a mirror; or the images generated by a micro-projector are transmitted via an optical waveguide – a light-conducting material invisible to the human eye – integrated into the glass. The latter is the principle behind the glasses from French company Optinvent and Israeli manufacturer Lumus, for example. The advantage of it is that there is no display or monitor to impair the wearers’ vision; they are able to look through the waveguide. Moreover, these types of glasses are very light, and can be made relatively cheaply.
More efficiency in the warehouse
The glasses are comfortable enough even for an industrial worker to wear on the production line, for example. In fact, they are already in use, displaying step-by-step assembly instructions in the worker’s field of vision, for example. Logistics is another highly promising area of application for smart glasses. As one example, DHL Supply Chain recently carried out trials at its logistics centre at Bergen op Zoom in the Netherlands in conjunction with Ricoh Smart Glasses. For three weeks, ten of its warehouse staff wore Google Glass and Vuzix M100 smart glasses as picking aids. The “pick-by-vision” solution from Ubimax displayed all order information in the operative’s field of vision. Picking of individual items was confirmed by way of voice-controlled barcode scans using the camera built-in to the glasses. The glasses enabled wearers to keep their hands free, with no need for hand-held scanners or picking lists. The result was an immediate 25 per cent gain in picking efficiency. Jan-Willem De Jong, Business Unit Director Technology of DHL Supply Chain Benelux, comments: “AR-aided picking eliminates the need for superfluous hand movements, and is much more productive. Technology is a key aid for our staff, and offers our customers genuine added value.”
A smart helmet for industry
A number of manufacturers, including US company Daqri and Actemium in Germany, are integrating smart glasses into helmets and combining them with other electronic systems. The Smart Helmet from Actemium, for example, features multiple 360-degree cameras, WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS, a solid-state memory and an infrared transmitter along with the smart glasses. It displays graphical plant, engineering or operating information directly in the user’s field of vision. Industrial workers are able to view additional maintenance or repair guides, or can get assistance on machinery procedures from a remote expert, as well as receiving early warnings of safety risks. Users have both hands free at all times in order to carry out the manual operations unhindered. Frank Berger, Head of the Business Unit Actemium Smart Industry & Infrastructure Solutions, comments: “All customers can now experience Industry 4.0 live in their own factories – with Smart Helmets and an integrated AR solution which provides staff with the right information at the right time while on the move.”
(picture credits: Daqri)