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Wearables

‘Wearables’ is a term that refers to multiple different devices and device-types and has often been touted as the next big thing, but many might argue that it has not yet fully delivered on that promise, at least in an enterprise context.

Wearable devices are those that are worn on the body, rather than carried separately. Examples might be AR or VR headsets, smart watches, body-cams and smart-nappies. The key is that the device needs to be capable of fulfilling a useful function and should have a form-factor and weight that allows it to be comfortably worn for a useful period of time.

Potential Benefits For Companies

The speed of development of both devices and use-cases has increased considerably in recent years due to the increased ability of manufacturers to put considerable processing power and sensor numbers in increasingly small and light containers. This initially found a home in consumer devices such as smart-watches, activity monitors and gaming VR headsets. However, this capability is now finding many use cases in the enterprise market, such as:

  • Monitoring devices to continuously assess patient status
  • Virtual reality devices to provide hyper-realistic training
  • Mixed reality headsets to guide fault-fix and maintenance work

These use cases, as well as the many hundreds of others now being either investigated, implemented or in full use, have multiple benefits, particularly in the pandemic situation. These include:

  • Cost savings through reduced down time of critical equipment
  • Improved efficiency through better logistics and stock management
  • Reduced risk through better informed maintenance and repair work
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COEUS’ APPROACH

Challenges 

The challenges that many organisations face around wearables is identifying the right technology and the most beneficial use case to use wearables. Coupled with the many different approaches that organisations have to pilot projects this often makes it hard for organisations to look at the opportunities as investment can be hard to get.

As and when investment has been agreed, the next challenge that we have seen is accurately agreeing and documenting success factors for a pilot and then effectively measuring the results to prove or disprove the opportunity. Given that wearables are a relatively new technology in the enterprise space it is often hard to account for the different variables and issues that can arise and so many test projects are thrown off when unexpected issues arise and stakeholders start to lose confidence in either the technology or the case being tested.

There could also be additional challenges around sourcing and procurement of the devices and other technology components needed to support an initial test phase and then (if warranted) a full rollout. Organisations may not be used to contracting directly with device vendors and may also have problems agreeing how to set up an appropriate environment for the data needed to support any successful rollout of wearables.

Coeus’ experience in working with clients to identify, pilot and implement wearables has highlighted a reliable set of use cases which have delivered clear benefits across multiple industries and organisation sizes. These are:

  1. Remote Assist – Reducing the need for expert engineers to visit sites by using AR / VR to let them see the site and guide less experienced resources
  2. Guided Instruction – Providing a mixed reality overlay to guide engineers on site, with the overlay showing with parts / components to interact with
  3. Real-time data – Using an overlay to provide key staff with real-time data such as asset performance management metrics at the point of use
  4. Diagnostics - Using mixed reality to compare a previous asset state to the existing state to identify potential problems. Also using AI to help determine / detect potential problems based on the data captured by a mixed reality device
  5. Virtual Geographics – Aggregate data from tools such as GIS and BIM to provide an overlay with pertinent information about a particular site / location
  6. Layout/modelling - Using mixed reality to support creation of 3D models. This could either be to help interact with the model to understand the impact of options or to use the data captured to inform the model
  7. Training - Using mixed or artificial reality to help train on particular systems, components or processes. Mixed reality helps individuals to visualise the process or to demonstrate the impact of decisions made
  8. Human Logistics and Safety - Using real time data to keep relevant staff informed and to ensure that they are in the right place at the right time to maximise efficiency. Also used to inform staff about safety risks – environmental and personal

We have also identified several considerations that can make or break the business case, some of which are often forgotten about as the focus can get stuck on the technology. We would recommend that organisations looking into wearables ensure that they consider all of the following, in addition to technology factors such as connectivity, compatibility and serviceability:

  • Value case
  • Scope and success criteria
  • Testing
  • Data
  • Human Factors