There is a new mobile technology that is already changing the way people work, communicate and live on the go. “Wearables” have begun popping up in the enterprise in different forms and are expected to play a larger role in how mobile users operate in the future.
The most well-known of these futuristic devices is Google Glass, and the company is leading the charge as it continues to develop Project Glass augmented reality glasses. The device will give users voice-activated access to apps, contacts and documents as early as 2014.
The computerized glasses will display information in front of users in the air via a visual interface, similar in appearance to a smartphone or tablet display. Users will be able to wear the glasses anywhere, even while walking down the street, and respond to messages and give app commands without the need to type. The technology will also better recognize locations, track where users are and what they are doing, and capture photos and video.
Potential for the Enterprise
In a June article on the topic, The Guardian (U.K.) made this bold statement. “Their impact upon our daily lives will be as profound as the introduction of the iPhone was five years ago. They [natural user interfaces that involve vision and voice] will break through new boundaries in mobile computing. It is important to understand the potential of this new class of device today so that we can design apps and services for tomorrow.
Google Glass would allow enterprise users to “interact with relevant data, in real-time.” Voice commands prompt business apps and access to data and documents, even during meetings with colleagues and clients.
Just the Beginning
Google has more augmented reality projects in development, having recently been issued patents for “smart watch” and “smart glove” products that, like Glass, will give users hands-free access to updates, documents and nearby locations via a wireless network.
Competitors are also making plans regarding wearable computing devices. Apple has a patent out for a head-mounted device similar to Google Glass, which is one in a series of projects it plans to implement into the anticipated wearable computer market.
Furthermore, Sarah Rotman Epps in a blog for Forrester wrote that “Wearables will heighten the platform wars,” which, she predicted, Google may win. She pointed out that Apple's iOS ecosystem has already inspired a host of wearables, but noted that Google's open Android platform will “inspire broader experimentation for entire wearable solutions.”
Still, security is a top issue that needs to be addressed before wearables become mainstream. The ability of the solution to recognize locations and record where users are and what they are doing, and stream viewable information will create risk.
Wearable Now from Motorola
Just one example of available wearable technology is the new Motorola HC1 headset computer — a rugged device built for use in field service and remote locations. The device uses voice recognition, head gestures and video streaming to navigate apps that access and view business documents and schematics.
The solution enables field workers to access information, such as manuals and safety information, in harsh environments, at remote locations and at times when accessing a laptop or handheld device is not possible.
Use in the Field
Designed for field services and the defense, utilities, telecommunications, aerospace and aviation markets, the device can be used for maintenance, repair, operations/overhaul (MRO), training and simulation applications that improve inspection time and accuracy, reduce labor rates and increase safety.
Field technicians responsible for the maintenance and repair of complex machines and vehicles can receive expert assistance almost instantly on-site. Military defense forces, special public safety teams and commercial customers can practice simulated events and crisis scenarios and also perform live training with real-time trainer feedback and mission- or business-critical guidance.
Construction managers, field engineers and architects can access schematics, building plans and maps, and annotate photos or video clips to provide proof of condition or document changes at the point of activity
The device provides hands-free mobile computing, leveraging Kopin Corporation’s optical micro-display technology platform, providing the user with a view of a 15-inch laptop-size screen.
In addition to local document access, the device allows the push and pull of data between the headset computer and remote networks when connected via local Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth connection to a Motorola MC75A, MC65, ES400 smartphone or mobile hotspot. By pairing the device with a WAN device connected to a remote network, mobile workers can receive mobile gateway access to place voice calls and use GPS data.
The remote connectivity of the device, combined with the use of an optional camera accessory that can transmit pictures or videos, enables collaboration between a remote expert and a field-based associate on the job site to resolve issues quickly and efficiently, reducing travel costs and downtime while improving worker productivity.
The headset computer is provided with coverage for normal wear and tear and accidental damage to internal and external components to reduce reducing unforeseen repair expenses.
Dr. Andrew G. Cook, senior vice president of Operational Excellence and Innovation, AREVA Inc. says, “In the highly demanding and regulated nuclear energy industry, innovation is essential in meeting ever-increasing standards for safety and operational performance for our utility customers. With the Entervise Remote Expert application running on Motorola’s HC1 headset computer, we can perform independent quality oversight at nuclear power plants without requiring a second person to enter restricted areas. With the HC1’s added camera functionality, our on-site technicians can enlist the support of our experts at the home office in real time to see exactly what is seen in the field and help them resolve conditions quickly and safely. We expect that the HC1 will provide us with measurable gains in productivity and efficiencies that will reduce radiation dose and operating costs.”