4 Use Cases for Wearable Technology

Smart Glasses Assist Mobile Workers In Getting The Job Done

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Jack Wilson is an HVAC technician for a subcontractor on a large office building construction effort, a job he started three months ago. As he enters the job site and checks in with the foreman, he calls up his work order on his smartphone and sees he has to inspect a heating unit on the fourth floor of the building. He climbs the newly built stairs and eventually finds the unit that is his charge for the morning. Normally, Jack services air conditioning equipment, so he has little experience on these heating units.

Jack’s company has equipped him with Google Glass for this very circumstance, showing that the company has adopted the wearable mindset. He puts them on and says, “OK, Glass, call home office support.” The glasses connect him with Ken Roberts, a four-decade veteran of the company and an SME of heating units. Ken is fielding calls from all around the state and sharing his expertise with his colleagues out in the field.

Jack takes the cover off of the heating unit and says, “OK, Glass, stream video.” In moments, Ken can see what Jack is looking at. “Hey, Ken, I need to do an inspection here, can you help me out?” At that point, Ken leads Jack through a step-by-step inspection as he tells him what to do by sharing his visual point of view and watching Jack’s actions. Throughout the entire inspection, they are collaborating with each other and eventually reach a successful outcome. The rookie, Jack, has inspected the unit with Ken, an HVAC veteran.

This is the world of enterprise wearables–delivering important information to a mobile and/or remote audience seamlessly into their workflow. No grasping a smartphone, no leaning over to touch a tablet, and no diverting of the eyes from the task at hand to a nearby screen. These wearables use case is being done today by businesses around the globe and with greater frequency to build and support a more effective workforce.

For many, the technological category of “wearables” was first introduced with Google Glass, which was initially targeted to the consumer. More recently, the Apple Watch has brought a wearable to many wrists in the public marketplace. It comes as no surprise that innovative minds in the business world are developing ways to use these types of devices to help work get done faster, smarter and more efficiently. Glasses, watches, wristbands, headsets, and smart apparel are all part of the pioneering movement of wearable technology. It should also not be a shock that many of these companies were also quick to embrace the mobile platform, and are now using smartphones and tablets as every day required tools.

In fact, having a strong background in mobile content delivery is helpful in implementing a wearables initiative as many of the same factors come into play such as technical requirements, user experience needs, user interface design, and contextual influences. Wearables and mobile devices often work together to deliver information so understanding both worlds is nearly essential.

Wearables are making headway in a variety of use cases and industries. Let’s look at a few:

1. Warehousing
Workers who need to navigate large storage facilities housing thousands of items are using smart glasses to locate, collect, and deliver their products. The glasses deliver information to the “pickers” such as an aisle and bay location, product number, product scanning, and order assembly steps. The glasses are replacing both paper-based processes and handheld devices.

2. Healthcare
Physicians are wearing smart glasses while they are making their hospital or clinic rounds and talking to patients. This allows them to have more eye contact and personal interaction than older processes. The physicians can call up patient history and information and also record observations and directions all without sitting at a computer station and typing away at a keyboard.

3. Customer Service
Some call center associates wear wristbands that allow them to easily and accurately relay information during the workday. The wristbands allow them to check in and out of the facility and to authenticate their time spent at their station. For instance, the associate can sit down and automatically alert the workstation that they are logged in and can take calls. When they go on the break, the system will immediately know the station should not receive calls. Wristbands can provide a wide range of information especially in the areas of tracking and notifications.

4. Building & Construction
This industry is already seeing innovative technology to support the “smart” construction worker. The scenario that begins this post is one good example. On a greater scale, there are wearables such as smart hard hats and smart safety vests that measure worker vital signs and assess the environment for gas leaks and other safety hazards. Smart glasses can remove the need for a clipboard or tablet-based documents and keep the worker’s hands-free resulting in a safer environment.

Certainly, these and other wearables use cases are in nascent stages and much needs to be learned to make them better and more reliable. As always, there are limits and roadblocks to any new ideas and technologies. But, there are many pioneering companies that see the potential in wearables and they are unafraid to put concepts into action if they can support their workforce in new and powerful ways.

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Jack Wilson could not have completed the heating unit inspection very easily without the Google Glass support of his expert colleague. Wearables made the task simpler and quicker.
What innovative ways are you seeing wearables being used in the enterprise? Share them in the comments below.

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Scott McCormick is a founding partner of Float. Building on more than 30 years of experience in training, eLearning, and mLearning efforts for Fortune 500 companies, Scott helps companies embrace new learning strategies and deliver results. Scott is in charge of client relationships with global leaders in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and insurance, and is instrumental in building new business and contributing to Float’s thought leadership efforts. Scott is featured in Float’s latest book, “Mastering Mobile Learning,” available from Wiley and ASTD Press.

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On November 2, 2015
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