The age of the connected industrial worker has been a long time coming. It began in the 1990s, the availability of affordable mobile technology that wirelessly linked people across the plant around the world. Gradually, over the last two decades, the Industrial Internet of Things has allowed greater numbers of machines to communicate with each other almost instantaneously. The logical next step for manufacturers is to merge humans and machines.
And that time is now.
I’d love to tell you it’s because the Elon Musk-funded Neuralink brain chip for mind-meld-ing with AI is finally commercially available (it’s not), or that we’re all about to enter the
Matrix (that’s at least five years out), but the actual reason is much more realistic and
easy to understand.
Plants, factories, and utilities finally have that killer (in a good way) human-machine
interface that meets their stringent safety standards, withstands their harsh environments,
and survives the scrutiny of their no-nonsense users: the Real Wear HMT- 1— the first
and only industrial-grade, 100% hands-free wearable computer.
As Apple’s iPhone defined the form and function of smartphones everywhere, so too
has this head-mounted tablet set the standard for industrial wearables.
Within the high-tech laurel wreath form factor, which can clip to a hardhat or bump cap,
you’ll find everything you’d expect from a handheld tablet: an 8-core Snapdragon 625
chipset, an Android 6.0.1 operating system, a 16-megapixel camera (1080p video), a full
suite of sensors (3-axis accelerometer, magnetometer, and gyroscope) and hot-swappable
Li-Ion battery that lasts a full shift. An adjustable boom houses the monocular display,
which appears as a 7-in. display relative to the eye. This can be used to play video, look
at work instructions, or augment the worker’s environment in real-time.
The key differentiator from other mobile devices, aside from being worn on the head,
is that not only is there no touch screen, but no need to touch anything. The voice
recognition system responds swiftly to all commands, from recording video
to contacting the control room. Even in a 95-dB environment, the system
can pick up on voice commands. At launch, the system recognized verbal
orders 24 out of 25 times.
Swiping a tablet can be just as speedy as talking, but for industrial workers
that’s not the case.
“You can do some jobs twice as fast as you can with a tablet,” says
Real Wear CEO Andy Lowery. “And manufacturing time can be reduced as much as 55% from a traditional paper and pencil way."
In that case, a tablet was 10-20% less efficient, he says.
Currently, Real Wear has gained about 800 enterprise customers since becoming available in July 2017. With more than
10,000 units shipped, including 200 to the world’s largest utility
(State Grid in Shanghai, China), the Vancouver-based Real Wear,
Inc. has risen to the top of the industrial wearable world.
The new intrinsic model, the HMT-1Z1, is being considered or deployed at every major oil & gas provider, while companies such as Honeywell have integrated it with their
own software platform Movilizer and rolling it out by the dozens. Last October, Colgate
Palmolive announced it has concluded pilot programs at eight sites and hundreds of
mechanics and engineers across 20 facilities would use the HMT- 1.
Having personally tested the device last year, the reason for the rapid growth is apparent:
it’s as easy and intuitive to operate as an iPhone.
“We’re simpler than Apple,” asserts Lowery about the HMT- 1 user experience.
That’s fair, as I am an Android user and still don’t get the nuances of the Home button.
With the HMT- 1, just say “back.” You want to select an app, just tilt your head its way.
And getting new applications for data visualization or remote guidance via the Real Wear
Foresight Cloud is like clicking on the App Store to find a new game or streaming service.
Enterprises and third-party developers can also create their own apps. And when you want
to launch one, even if your hands are holding open a machine door or squeezing through
an access tunnel, all you have to do is say the word.
“Our users need that kind of simplicity because they don’t want to be bogged down with
a bunch of digital hoops and ladders,” Lowery says. “They just want the information there.”
Smart Headset Rules the
Industrial Wearable Market
By John Hitch
RealWear's ruggedized, hands-free HMT- 1 and intrinsically safe HMT-1Z1 have emerged as the industrial wearables
of choice, creating a new indispensable tech segment.
Realwear has shipped 10,000 HMT- 1 units in about 18 months, becoming the wearable of choice
for harsh industrial applications.