Digital Solutions & Data Responsibility
Top benefits of Industrial Wearables with Real Examples
If you have ever used a smartwatch or fitness tracker, then you are aware of the benefits of smart wearables. They provide real-time information, are easy to wear, and harness technology to make life easier.
Likewise, the field of industrial wearables is bringing new and dynamic technologies to the manufacturing sector, and industry players are taking notice. These devices bring the promise of increased safety, assistance with physically difficult tasks, and connect frontline workers with live support and communication.
The industrial wearables market is expected to grow from $3.79 billion in 2019 to $8.4 billion by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. But what is the business value driving their growth?
4 benefits of industrial wearables
1. Improved safety through wearables
A key benefit of wearable technology in industrial settings is the ability to improve worker safety. Frontline industrial workers often operate in harsh environments with dangerous moving equipment and heavy machinery, loud noises, and high temperatures. Preventing injuries is the highest priority.
Industrial wearables can increase safety by helping prevent injuries and providing increased situational awareness. They come in a variety of forms, including smart glasses, enhanced safety hats equipped with sensors, devices that augment worker performance by offering physical support, and devices that monitor personnel in dangerous environments among others.
Real-life examples on industrial wearables
Canadian company Backline Safety developed a wearable safety device that monitors lone workers operating in hazardous conditions. The device generates SOS alerts for missed check-ins, which immediately notifies monitoring staff.
WakeCap connects safety hats with sensors placed around work sites for geo-location motoring. The hats also detect head impacts and worker falls, and allow workers to trigger panic alerts in cases of emergency.
Other companies like Kenzen provide devices for health monitoring in order to prevent illness. The devices take readings on a user’s biomarkers like electrolytessodium, metabolites, glucose, various molecules, and proteins as well as speed, active heart rate, and body temperature.
2. Industrial wearables for ergonomics
Wearable devices are becoming increasingly pervasive for work efficiency and injury reduction. Some actively augment a worker’s movements to reduce pain and joint stress and help prevent repetitive strain injuries.
For example, Ironhand is an augmented glove designed to strengthen grip, allowing workers to use less force when performing repetitive tasks. The device has artificial tendons in all five fingers and is powered by a pack worn in a backpack or carry case.
Herowear has developed a back-assist exosuit for men and women designed to reduce strain on the back while fitting like a piece of clothing. They claim the device reduces 75 pounds of strain on the back.
Other companies are taking a more data-based approach. StrongArm Technologies developed a wearable system that monitors the bodily movements of its wearer. It provides immediate feedback to alert users of harmful actions like poor bends and twists. The wearable collects and stores information, which it then feeds into comprehensive reports for evaluation that allow workers to develop better habits.
Smart clothing and activity trackers are also becoming increasingly prevalent. Everything from connected shoes to activewear, and business suites are popping up left and right. Although many of these devices aren’t specifically designed for industry, they are applicable to work environments. Take, for instance, Sensoria Smart Socks. They detect which part of the foot is receiving the most pressure during use and send the data to a smartphone app.
Connect clothing is definitely in the future of industrial frontline workers.
3. Industrial wearables for increased productivity and efficiency
The factory of the future concept is one where a future-oriented manufacturer utilizes the most advanced digital technologies to implement dynamic and sustainable processes. Connected workers are a large part of the equation, and industrial wearables will play a significant role.
Several items are becoming more prevalent among frontline workers including AR (augmented reality) glasses, smartwatches, and scanners. Here’s a closer look at several devices gaining traction with manufacturers.
Google developed a brand of AR glasses in 2014 called Google Glass aimed at the general public. The product was a flop with general consumers however it did garner a devoted niche following. This forced Google and other makers to shift to a more suitable market. They focused instead on the manufacturing industry, which has been much more receptive.
AR glasses are gaining in popularity since they can provide hands-free access to information and instructions by displaying them in a worker’s field of vision. Many of these devices allow workers to take videos and photos and receive live remote assistance. This has larger implications for improving support by allowing experts to communicate remotely across continents to frontline workers.
Unlike AR glasses, smartwatches have already achieved mainstream popularity and continue to expand their market size. The market was estimated to be worth $30.4 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow more than 8% by 2030.
Companies are increasingly developing them for different markets, including industry. Workerbase produces a smartwatch dedicated to industrial settings. Their device accommodates a variety of applications including comprehensive logistics, supervisory control and data acquisition, service and maintenance, communications, and quality management.
In logistical settings and warehouses, workers typically haul around pistol-grip-style scanners. These can be heavy and cumbersome. ProGlove is a smart wearable alternative that aims to replace those scanners. It attaches to the back of the hand and is activated by triggering a sensor near the thumb. The device claims to provide hands-free scanning capabilities that can save up to four seconds per scan.
4. Operation management
Smart wearables are becoming increasingly dynamic in the scope of their application, which includes environmental mapping and tracking of an entire workplace.
Canadian maker ZeroKey has a product portfolio that includes tools for minute operational visibility of entire environments. Their device provides 3D millimeter-level position accuracy for tracking movements and interactions of everything in a user’s workflow in real time. This includes worker, tool, and machine tracking through various sensors and wearables.
It works by having a user install anchor nodes around a facility’s pillars, ceilings, walls, or any other static surface. Other devices can be placed on machinery like forklifts, and workers via wrist wearables. The system then traces movements and positioning in real time for keeping track of “assets, processes, goods, and people,” according to their website.
Industry 4.0 has arrived
Industry 4.0 conceptualizes the brisk advancements of technology and processes in the modern era. Increasingly interconnectivity and smart automation are combining to create a fundamental shift in global industries.
For further reading, check out our article on the industrial metaverse.
Employing advanced tools for the workforce is as inevitable as it was in the past. Industrial wearables are just the next step in the evolution of modern industry. They will continue to change with the latest technology, and as long as innovations provide solutions for improving processes and efficiency, wearables will only become more prevalent.