who have a business need to solve.
“You had the early adopters that have learned their les-
sons and are engaging with us and others within the eco-
system,” Kim continues. “The market as a whole is moving
from initial pilots into meaningful deployments.”
And that’s precisely what Intel was looking for. Upskill
doesn’t simply build a custom app and send you on your way.
They run their fingers up and down every inch of a company’s
structure to find the pain points, like a digital masseuse.
“We go deep into a company’s way of how they work
and how they access the information,” Kim says. “And that
means getting to the very core of the data sources that
people are using within a factory or warehouse on a day-
And just as smart glasses aren’t much good without
functional software, data isn’t much good without people
to use it. Wearables are the bi-directional interface that
provide the data and access it.
This is why Croteau calls wearables “the last 15 feet” of
a truly smart factory.
“So you’ve automated your plant, you’ve got sensors on
everything, you’re pulling out all this information about your
production and your workflow,” Croteau explains. “And the
last piece of your manufacturing facility that’s not connected
is your worker.”
Now, running a solution such as Recon Jet Pro and Sky-
light, your workforce is finally dressed for success.
And maybe we’re looking at wearables all wrong. They
aren’t tools and they aren’t weapons. They’re doorways to
a world where we don’t fear automation; we domesticate it.
“The key is that technology can be a friend, not a foe,” says
Marco Annunziata, global economist and executive director
at GE’s Global Insights.” Many see Artificial Intelligence as
the biggest threat; but invariably we find that a human and
a machine together beat a machine alone every time, no
matter how smart the machine.”
For more information, go to
and the wearable industry as a whole, it grew up. Now rebranded as Upskill, (because it elevates worker output),
the company has gone from a cool, agile tech startup to a
bonafide wearable leader, with the mission of enhancing
the industrial workforce in a more connected digital world.
The company’s Skylight software platform has been the
go-to enterprise solution for Johnson & Johnson, GE and
several other major companies in their logistics, field service,
and manufacturing operations.
It serves as the connective tissue between workers, the
Io T, HMIs, ERPs, MRPs, and every other relevant industrial
acronym, creating and running the necessary work instructions, tasks, and digitized data through a wearable to make
the worker’s job as easy and error-free as possible.
At Boeing, Skylight-powered pairs of Google Glass completely eliminated the need for wire harness assemblers to
constantly look over at paper instructions or a laptop for the
next step. Instead they could view the instructions in the
display, and use voice commands to proceed. All the while,
they kept both hands twisting and looping miles of wires
that will eventually end up on an aircraft. Boeing says the
solution cut production time by 25% and reduced errors to
almost zero. (Maybe Glass wasn’t such a disaster after all.)
“We’re all about making people more agile and compet-
itive as machines and robots get smarter,” Kim says. “We
bridge the real-time knowledge gap between automated
systems and people.”
That may be hard to envision, so here’s an example from
GE’s Minds + Machines 2016 Conference Kim describes
from last November. He says workers would walk up to a
specific piece of industrial equipment and see through
their smart glasses real-time statuses of that machine data
connected to GE’s Predix platform. Then the worker could
pull up a series of work instructions and compare real-time
“Our technology turns the information that is being created by these smart factories into action,” Kim says.
Recently released case studies from GE illustrate that
this technology doesn’t lead to mild-mannered incremental
improvement; this is full-on immediate action.
At GE Renewable Energy’s wind turbine assembly facility in Pensacola, Fla., Upskill compared a wiring technician
using a binder and one wearing Google Glass running Skylight to complete wiring insertions for a turbine’s top box.
It took about 15 minutes for the tech using Skylight to get
acclimated. At this point, the assemblers were neck and neck. But then
the hands-free worker got the hang of
it and the dead heat morphed into a
race between a Formula- 1 and Model
T. The new method yielded a 34% improvement in productivity.
A similar test at a GE Healthcare
warehouse in Florence, S.C., produced
a 46% improvement during a picking
“In just three to five years, I can’t
imagine a person on the plant floor
that doesn’t have a wearable device to
help them do the job,” says Paul Boris,
VP of Manufacturing Industries at GE.
And the list of wearable companies
is growing out, “and that’s a good
thing,” Kim says. (Check out the first
industrial smart glove on Pg. 22.) But that doesn’t mean
we’re on the verge of giant holographic screens projecting
before our eyes or really immersive applications in that
period Boris spoke of.
“For at least the next three to five years, the sweet spot
in enterprise wearables is going to be delivering preexisting
information within their database in an assisted reality fashion to create a hands-free computing environment,” he says.
So was 2016 really the year of the wearable?
It’s more like the year they came down to Earth, believes
the pragmatic Kim, who we also interviewed last year and
who urged folks to look at industrial wearables as tools,
more related to torque wrenches than iPhones.
And he thinks companies are finally seeing it that way, too.
“I would reference the Gartner Hype Cycle and say that
this is an industry that is getting out of the trough of disillusionment,” Kim says. “The companies we engage with
have really turned the corner from the innovation side of
the house to the plant managers and operations managers
Boeing used Skylight paired with Google Glass to aid wire
harness assemblers by putting their work instructions on
the smart glasses’ display, as opposed to a laptop or paper.
The change led to 25% improvement in production time.
The“See What I See” feature running on the Recon Jet Pro via Skylight allows
senior-level experts to stay at the offce while a newer employee can go out in the
feld and perform repairs or maintenance.
“People saw Google Glass and said, ‘Oh I can now do all of
the things that I saw in Terminator and Minority Report,’—
where lots of different, very immersive AR concepts were
being mentioned. And that was the market’s expectation
until 2015 going into ‘ 16.”
– Jay Kim, CTO of Upskill