According to Statista (Hamburg, Germany), there are 453 million connected wearable devices worldwide last year, a figure that is predicted to increase to 593 million this year. Unsurprisingly, while the market is currently dominated by smart watches, you may be surprised at the benefits that wearables can bring to your manufacturing facility and help you transform your shop floor.
Smart watches are not the only wearable tech. The sector has rapidly expanded and now includes radiation-blocking underwear, smart shoes and emotion-sensing bracelets. As well as weird and wonderful applications, wearable tech is becoming a staple factory technology, by offering safety and productivity benefits. Smaller sensors and technology that improves battery life are benefiting consumers – like athletes – who can be seen covered in wearables to monitor performance. This, combined with increased connectivity, is what has enabled industrial wearable tech to take off. In the industrial environment, wearables could include hats, gloves, clothing and bracelets.
According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO; Geneva, Switzerland), over 7,600 people die every day from work related accidents or diseases ─ 2.78 million a year. This is why the organization is developing ISO 45001, a framework to improve employee safety. Wearable technology could enable manufacturers to meet this standard more easily:
AVOIDING SPRAINS AND STRAINS
One company that is already hot on this trend is Kinetic (New York, NY), which is tackling the common work-related injuries, sprains or strains, previously prevented by avoiding bending and reaching. They produce the Reflex, a device that can be attached to a belt to monitor posture. If bending, twisting or reaching is detected, it will notify the worker. A four-week pilot showed a 96 percent reduction in sprain and strain risk, meaning this device could be one to watch out for.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be connected to the Internet to monitor worker’s interactions with their environments. In an environment that includes humans and robots, wearable tech equipped with GPS sensors can help to avoid collisions and alert workers when entering hazardous areas. Worker safety can also be improved using connected gas detection equipment, which allows plant managers or safety managers to track staff’s exposure to toxic substances, radiation or low oxygen conditions.
As well as worker safety, worker comfort can be improved with wearable technology. For example, consider the Chairless Chair developed by Noonee GmbH (Deizisau, Germany) an unusual wearable that allows its user to sit down anywhere. This can be worn while walking and standing, moving into chair position on command. Suited to the individuals shape and size, it promotes good posture, improving comfort and well-being.
Wearable technology can improve worker safety and comfort, both of which can contribute to productivity. It’s no longer just smart watches and fitness trackers . . . wearable tech is set to become a factory essential.
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