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Wearable Tech: Improving Productivity and Well-Being
Wearable tech is becoming more popular with consumers as products become increasingly sophisticated, but it also has the potential to change and improve the way we work. In fact, based on current adoption rates, the day may come when wearable technologies will be issued to workers when they are hired. This is especially true for jobs in which people work on their feet or remotely. High-tech armbands, for instance, could provide hands-free communication for paramedics. Smart glasses can allow warehouse sorters to scan barcodes with a glance, saving the time and effort that would have been spent using traditional, hand-held scanners. With those two examples in mind, let's look at some of today's wearable technologies and how they can be applied in the workplace.
Fitness trackers, such as those made by FitBit and Jawbone, are becoming increasingly popular with consumers who want to improve their health and well-being. However, they're also emerging as a valuable tool in the workplace. Research has long suggested that healthier people are more productive. But good fitness can also help lower employer-provided insurance costs, too. UnitedHealthcare Motion, a national insurer, has goal-based incentives that can lead to almost $1,500 in annual savings for an employee and spouse. Basic fitness trackers are relatively inexpensive, so it's easy to see why this trend could really take off. For example, the Jawbone UP MOVE retails for around $20 to $50 (depending on the retailer). It tracks steps, the amount of exercise you get, and calorie consumption.
Armbands are an emerging technology that offers the potential to communicate and/or word hands-free. The ErgoSport Universal Armband by Yurbuds ($15 to $30 retail) will hold most popular Smartphones on your arm, allowing you to talk on speakerphone while your hands are free to work. This could be very handy for paramedics or other professionals who need to work and communicate at the same time. They Myo Gesture Control Armband (retails for around $200) uses remote sensors to monitor the movement of arm motion and muscle use, which in turn allow you to control technology. It can let you control a Power Point presentation in a meeting from across a room by moving your arm or making a fist. Augmedix, a healthcare technology firm which helps physicians adopt technology, is using the armband to go through digital patient records with a simple swipe of the hand.
Smart watches are continuing to evolve and improve. The new Samsung Gear 3 Frontier watches (starting at $350 retail) will give employees the power to work remotely without a Smartphone. You can text and make/receive phone calls (including a speakerphone feature which lets workers perform two-handed tasks while talking) and make payments using Samsung Pay. It's new (released in November) so the list of apps is currently small, but it's likely that we'll see that number grow, including scheduling apps (like Calendar Gear Pro) and navigational apps (like Gear Navigator) that can prove useful in the field.
Because of their ability to free up the hands, smart glasses have the greatest potential to revolutionize the way we work by managing tasks that are currently being handled by today's technologies. Smart glasses allow workers (for example, on construction sites) to record and transmit video to headquarters, where managers can analyze it and send back instructions. A pair of glasses like this could replace watches, armbands and even smart phones. Construction workers in the field could record and vocally explain work processes in real time with company headquarters. Packagers in a warehouse could scan barcodes with a glance, rather than taking the time to use a hand-held scanner. While this sounds like a small time savings, when a few seconds is added up hundreds or thousands of times per day, you're looking at an incredible time savings and an increase in productivity.
DHL Supply Chain is an example of a company that's seizing this opportunity. It is currently launching the next phase of its Vison Picking Program, using Vuzix M100 and M300 Smart Glasses, after a pilot project revealed a 25% increase in productivity was achieved by using the technology. Workers achieved the productivity because they could find and pick items for orders without having to stop and use a hand-held device. The M100 glasses retail for around $1000 a pair. The new M300 glasses cost around $1,500 a pair.
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David Ryan has many years of experience as a freelance writer and is active covering science and technology stories in the United States. He also enjoys writing short stories and traveling.
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