Smart Glasses are wearable devices quickly being adopted into the industrial landscape providing handsfree access to applications and information alongside what the wearer sees.
More and more forward-thinking businesses are finding very compelling use cases to adopt these solutions for their deskless workers and adoption is expected to increase rapidly. Use cases typically involve real-time contextual guidance, complex assembly instruction, see-what-I-see remote video collaboration, immersive training, visualized operations, image and video collection, and seeing things that the naked eye can’t.
Not For Everyone Yet
However, it is important to understand the challenges before jumping in and adding them to your IT road map. While the growing benefits of these hands freeing devices may be driving the adoption, the technology isn’t for every business yet.
Businesses implementing these solutions are realizing increased quality, compliance, and safety; improved service and maintenance; money savings on management and training; and able to facilitate expert assistance to remote workers and customers, just for starters. But, for some, it is still unconventional to wear glasses to follow guided instructions, retrieve information, and communicate with others. For others, the questions and challenges are in the areas of development and implementation into current enterprise systems and processes.
Goldman Sachs predicts that augmented reality will be an $80B market by 2025 and Gartner lists augmented reality among the critical technologies that businesses should prioritize. But, for many the smart glasses style, which continue to evolve, and prices, which continue to fall as tech improves and volumes grow, are still a significant concern to starting their first project. Despite the benefits and ROI, many IT managers are looking for more sleek designs and cheaper prices.
Before getting into the pros and cons of the devices themselves, understanding, in practice, some of the solutions smart glasses provide will help you to decide if these devices should be put on your road map.
Remote Video Collaboration
The most prominent application for smart glasses today is easily remote video collaboration. The ability to work together with experts remotely in a see-what-I-see environment is improving many sectors across the board. Ranging from regular field service check-ups to complex engineering support, telemedicine, and intricate procedures, this remote assistance capability is quickly driving more and more companies to incorporate this eyewear technology solution.
There is simply no better way to create, capture, and share knowledge across the entire organization.
Field Service, Maintenance, and Asset Management
Field service and asset management workers access content and contextual tools they need while their hands are busy enabling them to complete their faster, more safely, and with less errors. When needed, they can pull in remote experts using real-time augmented reality, live video, messaging, and voice. Experts see what they see and can provide visual guidance and instruction within what the technician is seeing through the glasses.
Boost first time fixes, maximize your machine uptime, improve remote assistance, better utilization of skilled workers, capture and share knowledge, close sales quicker, and cultivate happier customers.
Assembly lines are all about speed, productivity, accuracy, compliance and quality control. The exact areas in which smart glasses can deliver. Since every detail counts, automotive and aerospace manufacturers are implementing the use of eyewear devices to bring real-time solutions to the plant floor.
Logistics and Warehousing
While keeping their hands free and receiving directions and visual cues directly in their field of view, warehouse workers can easily locate, collect, and deliver items with ease. Smart glasses are also substituting handheld devices, scanners and paper and, as a result, employees are increasing productivity while decreasing errors and subsequent costs.
Smart glasses offer rich features such as mobile, hands-free picking and kitting in addition to a potentially low cost of ownership-benefits that warehouse manager covet.
Building and Construction
By using smart glasses / hard hats, construction workers experience a safer, more productive hands-free workflow. Structural inspections and errors can also be more accurately held and corrected through remote solutions offered in real-time.
Increase production and maximize asset uptime with greater visualization into your factory floor.
Factory operations workers can use glasses to get real-time operational feedback while they scan the manufacturing floor, assembly lines, warehouse flow, or construction site with relevant information such as costs, supply inventories, planned versus actual spending, employee and equipment scheduling, equipment operational and maintenance details, and more.
Smart glasses are here, but they still have some barriers
Smart glasses, the eyewear technology that layers information onto a user’s field of view, started off operating as simple front-end displays but have been progressing towards being able to perform complex computer powered tasks. This steady improvement in processing performance is, consequently, making this wearable device prove its worth in the market.
Apps on Smart Glasses are being used to guide people through new or complex processes, alert them of dangers in their surroundings, and provide quick access to necessary information all while leaving their hands free to do their job. On-board communication applications let them connect back with other team members that can see what they see to provide the expert advice and guidance they may need. The features and applications of these solutions are endless and the return through productivity and quality can be very fast.
Imagine being able to update the knowledge you need directly to an eyewear database. In other words, imagine a hands-free workforce that has instant access to targeted knowledge directly in their field of view. Such an implementation would ultimately increase quality control, improve maintenance, provide faster and more reliable solutions, save money on management and trainings, facilitate remote assistance…just to name a few.
But there are barriers
For many companies just looking at the solutions, the price of the glasses are objectively high. Especially if they have not yet fully understood the possible return. Also, the prices are expected to drop as manufacturing costs decreases and demand increases.
Comfort can be a factor, especially if the glasses need to be worn for extended periods of time. It is important to understand how long the glasses will be worn and for what tasks when selecting them. Also, it is imperative to manage the software running on the glasses to minimize heat and battery drain.
Battery Life tends to be short, but increasing all the time. Users can typically get a 2 to 3 hours of time, but can increase that significantly with tethered wearable battery packs.
Style can also be a factor, but is typically not a concern in industry and business arenas.
The biggest barrier to capturing the greatest return on a smart glasses implementation is being able to develop the necessary software for the business needs and integrating that software with the backend systems. Connecting backend systems with each unique environment, providing a productive user experience, and scaling with larger organizations can prove to be very difficult.
User adoption is another potential obstacle. Workers both wearing the glasses and those that are in front of them knowing there is a camera can be uncomfortable. This is mostly an educational issue and when overcome, users are much happier with them. With the right software, even many older workforces quickly pick up the natural voice and gesture user interface.
In most cases, it is also beneficial to provide mobile and desktop capabilities with the solution to provide alternatives and ease transitions.
Understanding and Knowhow
Smart glasses adoption is growing quickly, but simply not knowing where or how to get started will prevent many companies from reaping the benefits and value in these solutions. Although very stable and mature, the technology is still relatively new to many in much the way smart phones were several years ago.
Those that do jump in, may struggle with how to build and architect the software, define the user experience, and work with the hardware development kits.
Surround can help from concept to production.
Is it time for your business?
As with many new technologies, it is best to understand the value from the solutions, start a project, and reap the benefits rather than waiting for perfection in such a rapidly evolving market.