Wearables In The Workplace
Wearable technology has been around for decades, however, it hasn’t become popular until recently. The reason for this instant popularity is based on the fact that wearables have become increasingly more affordable and practical. Users no longer have to wear a heavy box on their head, implement wires to stay connected or preserve battery life to use throughout an entire day. Today, our wearables are actually useful and “wearable.”
Now, what constitutes a product as a “wearable?” Wearables should help you operate more efficiently and cannot be cumbersome. They can perform a variety of commands, such as, provide, collect and analyze real-time big data; connect wirelessly with other devices; monitor, prevent and alert potentially hazardous conditions and much more. Remember, just because one can wear a product, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a wearable.
There are three main wearable categories: visual, tactile and sensory. Most of the visual wearables today are still too large to wear comfortably, but Microsoft Hololens is making strides to change that.
The Hololens allows a user to have exceptional field-of-view, without compromising functionality. The wearable is equipped with a 3D scanner that analyzes your environment. It can, for example, cast holograms around your office, removing the need for monitors. On a construction job site, for example, the Hololens allows a user to view project plans without carrying a laptop, tablet or other miscellaneous documents. Connected with other wearables, this product has unlimited potential for optimizing a job site’s efficiency and safety. Microsoft recently distributed the Hololens to developers, which has allowed our JBKnowledge Research and Development Team to test and work on making the Hololens a practical, integrated solution for the AEC industry.
Sensory wearables are the most common among consumers, they aim to collect and analyze user data. Sensory wearables can range anywhere from fitness trackers to safety vests. Fitness trackers are equipped with features, such as, a GPS, heart rate monitors, temperature sensors, perspiration sensors, UV exposure and more. If this type of technology is implemented on every job site and regularly monitored, the return on investment could be huge. Imagine telling your insurer about your ability to track your workers’ current health status, they potentially may provide you a deal for your proactive approach, especially if it helps manage risk. Beyond fitness trackers, smart watches and GPS enabled badges, there are “smart safety vests.” Users wearing the vests are able to deem portions of their job site “off-limits” or unsafe, and will be notified if/when anyone with the vest on enters that area, decreasing the chances of an accident. Also, these smart vests are able to sense the worker’s surroundings and notify them of potential danger – this could mean significant improvements to risk management on construction projects.
Who hasn’t imagined owning an IronMan suit? Hyundai and Ekso Bionics are trying to make that possible, with their new tactical wearables. These exoskeletons are created with the construction industry in mind and are equipped with hydraulics, which make humanly impossible tasks easy for any laborer. Other exoskeletons use weight distribution as their solution, disbursing all weight being held to the ground. Workers implementing the exoskeletons will become less fatigued, allowing for an increase in job site production. Google is also entering the tactile wearable market with its new experimental product, Project Jacquard, which aims to make the mouse and keyboard obsolete. Jacquard uses your clothing as the wearable device, embedding usable devices into your clothing and connecting them in an interactive way with conductive yarn. Jacquard is partnering with Levi’s so that you can geek out and be stylish all at the same time. While this Google product is still in the experimental phase, it has huge implications for AEC in the future.
Ultimately, wearable technology enables workers to work faster, longer and more efficiently, and contractors are closely watching evolving trends. JBKnowledge CEO, James Benham, predicts there will be a pervasive use of wearables on construction sites by 2020, stating, “Companies will throw away their display monitors because of visual wearables that can project displays anywhere they want in their field of vision.”
Click here to learn more about using wearables for risk management and construction.
About The Author
Howdy! My name is David Sombrio and I am a Senior Business Management Major at Texas A&M. Since May 2016, I’ve been working as a Business Development Intern with JBKnowledge. So far, I’ve gained insight on technology within the AEC industry and the business functions performed within a technology company. I have worked in the hospital industry as a manager for years now and have been able to convert that experience into results at JBKnowledge. The company’s passion for tech has quickly consumed my interests. The internet-of-things fascinates me and has quickly engulfed my bank account as well. I have transformed my hobby of collecting to connecting, rendering all of my devices useful for every-day use.