The wearables market—activity trackers, smart watches, smart glasses, and embedded sensors in clothing—is exploding, and nowhere is that more evident than in the workplace. What was once viewed as more of a novelty now is becoming an integral part of both enterprises and smaller businesses. Why the newfound interest in business wearables, primarily smart glasses? For the same reasons IoT is taking over every sector—efficiency, enhanced productivity, safety, and significant cost savings. According to analysts, smart glasses have enabled the field services industry alone to achieve more than $1 billion in annual cost savings, propelling the market to $6 billion in sales in 2016.
While major players like Microsoft and a reinvigorated Google are grabbing market share in the enterprise sector, there is tremendous opportunity to be found with smaller and niche businesses. Today, the greatest demand for smart glasses is in back-end operations, such as pick-and-pack work (think Amazon warehouse), although the technology still is so new that other applications could soon eclipse that.
Adventures through the (virtual) looking glass
In general, the benefit of smart glasses is that all the information a worker needs can now be accessed in one highly mobile location, and that includes video. Take traditional warehouse operations. Simply by wearing smart glasses, a worker can boost productivity dramatically while making the job easier. Even an uninitiated new worker can be expertly guided to each product that needs to be shipped, mitigating errors and other common problems. Once located, the glasses automatically confirm it is the right package, avoiding delays with hand scanners, then guiding the worker back to a packing station. In addition, the glasses add another layer of quality control—the device ensures the product is both packed correctly (including any extras added, such as promotional literature) and has the right address, sending immediate notifications if an issue arises.
While warehouses have an obvious use for smart glasses, a more powerful use is locating small objects you would find in an office supply store, builder’s supply, or even a bead shop. The smart glasses first search through available inventory, and then guide the shop assistant to the exact location of a specific screw, pen, or button. This substantially enhances customer service, as the time from “do you carry this?” to the sale can be reduced by up to 90%.
Even temporary help can deliver outstanding results similar to a long-time employee, a further benefit in markets with chronic labor shortages. If an item is misplaced or mislabeled accidently, the advanced recognition capabilities of the smart glasses make finding the desired product a simple and hassle-free experience. Brick-and-mortar outlets can offer the instant gratification online-trained customers are so accustomed to, yet with the added bonus of the human touch.
YouTube was never like this
Integrated video turns any worker into an installation, assembly, or troubleshooting guru. Using real-time inputs, the software can both guide the worker through the task at hand and correct any errors on the spot. The system analyzes data as the worker follows the how-to video. If a mistake is made, the smart glasses immediately recommend another course of action to get back on track, similar to the way GPS systems recalculate if you miss a designated exit.
If human intervention is required (or preferred), the glasses literally act as a second set of eyes for a remote colleague who can assist. If something unexpected pops up, such as an unusual blockage discovered during a plumbing operation, the system instantly can scan the anomaly and offer feedback as to the possible identity, along with possible resolutions. These same advantages also can be offered to a customer with smart glasses, enabling the company to avoid costly in-person visits while delivering faster solutions.
Bottom line? The ready market acceptance (especially among younger workers), low barriers to entry, simple infrastructure, and infinite applications make smart glasses another ideal IoT pot of gold!
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