Pick the right devices to stay up-to-date on a factory shop floor

Let’s start with a bit of news. We just introduced the support of smartwatches into our SmartAlert application! The app is designed to keep workers up-to-date while working on the shop floor or on the field. We decided to go beyond smartglasses, for which the app is originally created, cause we are committed to making sure people have the best matching tools for their use cases. In some of them, a lighter version of the app and a simpler device offer an optional low-barrier route forward or back-up the usage of more complicated solutions.

Production line operator wearing a watch with SmartAlert

Wearables are an efficient method to bring real-time information right within the reach of a worker. The term wearables can be defined as any tech that you wear on you and that allows you to receive and send data. In this article we limit this rather wide concept to two types of interactive devices, glasses and watches. From the point of view of how to best provide people on the shop-floor or the field with accurate, timely data that they truly need, which device type should one choose to use?

Wearables help today’s workforce to become more productive, skilled and better equipped to answer to the demands of future work, says a recent Deloitte report (https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/signals-for-strategists/wearable-devices-in-the-workplace.html) published on July

Smartglasses or smartwatches to stay informed?

Smart AR glasses are by far the best tools for bringing complex and critical production data to workers. Glasses offer the information directly into the field of view of a user. They allow the worker to focus on the tasks at hand without having to pick up a manual, phone or tablet to check things.

With binocular AR goggles the data is presented to both eyes, you can provide the user with complicated data in a very visual form, like 3D graphics overlaid to real-world equipment. With binoculars there’s no limit in what you can think of using them for, a complicated procedure and equipment visualized for a worker is hugely more effective in training than a paper manual. A virtual control board for a machine is far more flexible and secure than a traditional one. If there’s a need for visually versatile, complex data, with a high demand of interactivity, consider binoculars.

SmartAlert app was originally developed with monoculars in mind, the type of smartglasses which is equipped with one display in the user’s field of view. This limits the sensing of depth and makes the data presented a bit more simple. On the other hand, monoculars are lighter, less obtrusive and they can often be integrated into your regular safety gear - should you be obliged to wear a hard hat for example. With monoculars you can present live data, like process status, machine performance in numbers and graphs, draw data from your systems to alert you of any odd values. You can put there instructions, videos and checklists or add simple virtual controls to interact with your system. If you need a good amount of data in real-time, interactive and easy to take along, think of monoculars.

Smartwatches have been around for years. Wearing a watch is likely a very common-place and easy to adopt thing for any worker, even for those who might find smartglasses unfamiliar and the concept of wearables altogether new to them. A watch takes very little room and can be well out of your way hidden inside your sleeve. Attached to a wrist, it can be nearly as efficient as glasses in keeping you alerted. Instead of flashing a warning in front of your eyes, it can rely on vibrating and sound. The display shows data about the notification and you can opt to control it with buttons, touch or voice. If an alert or a notification to induce right actions in the right time solves your case and you need as light a device as possible, opt for a watch.

Table on SmartAlert features

Available SmartAlert features per device type

In several maintenance and manufacturing use cases and pilots, the chosen approach has been to deploy more than one type of devices. A watch can be used as an alert or control device, and glasses to provide more data and actions when needed. A scenario from manufacturing could easily include the following steps:

  1. Operators are alerted about events in a production line by a watch.
  2. It can be a notification not requiring direct actions but allowing the users to stay informed even if they are not near the machinery.
  3. It can be an urge to instantly react to an issue,
  4. If latter, an operator puts on smartglasses and sees the specific data of that machine, the performance and other parameters needing action and instructions how to solve the issue.
  5. The operator accesses the virtual controls of the machine that’s configured just for the specific user and makes any necessary adjustments to the equipment.
  6. Problem solved.

Adding real-time data access into managing complicated processes on a factory shop floor or field can have measurable positive results to operation's efficiency and safety. A project though should never start with the technology. When you’re planning yours, remember to consider first the problem and the people who need to solve that problem. Here are the steps we've found useful in an AR pilot project, you're welcome to take a look: 

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