From smart watches, bands, glasses, and even USB cufflinks, the concept of wearing technology to help with life’s everyday demands is definitely in fashion.
Using the latest high-tech gadgets is not limited to leisure or personal time, either. Businesses are in fact beginning to explore how wearable technology can help improve worker safety and increase production in their warehouses.
Why the Logistics Industry needs to invest in Wearable Technology
Occupational diseases and accidents are estimated by the United Nations to cause nearly 3 million deaths, and 374 million non-fatal injuries per year, while lost time due to injury or illness could account for up to 4% of GDP.
Among the worst-hit industries, according to Eurostat, transportation and storage are assigned the second and sixth position for fatal and non-fatal accidents, respectively. While these figures admittedly include road-related accidents, warehouses are nonetheless deemed hazardous environments, with the presence of the moving machinery, and the need for manual cargo-handling.
The logistics industry is therefore taking steps to improve the physical working conditions of warehouse employees, taking their lead from sports innovation, where the so-called “wearable tech” is harnessed to push the boundaries of human ability.
Advanced Robotics: Exoskeletons
The list of wearable tech in the workplace can range from PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), such as hard hats and safety boots that assess hazards, through intelligent eyewear — issuing instructions and advice to the operator, to lift assistance aids, such as exoskeletons.
Exoskeleton can in fact track the movement of warehouse workers and make it easier for them to lift heavy objects during their shifts. Worn like a backpack, they can help ease the strain of heavy lifting by 30 to 40%
In addition to exoskeletons there are several other wearable devices that can help improve warehouse worker efficiency, such as wearable computers, smart glasses, voice headsets, activity-tracking bracelets, and finger-trigger gloves.
AI, iOT and AMR
AI technology is also advancing in warehousing and wearable technology, notably, progress in voice picking technology has made a significant difference in the industry.
Voice picking, also referred to as voice-directed warehousing, is a hands-free system that allows warehouse operators to instruct workers where to go and what to do.
The technology was mostly operated by Windows, originally, but now can be found on most Android devices and is beginning to incorporate Internet of Things (IoT) concepts.
Wearable devices that take advantage of speech technology are also being used to help human workers interact with their AI counterparts, often referred to in the field as autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), which allow a warehouse associate to communicate directly with AME coworkers through voice-activated systems and barcode scanners.
A Safe Working Environment Makes Warehousing Jobs more Attractive
Protecting worker’s health in the warehouse and offering valuable physical insights into the behaviours and postures with wearable technology does not only help with safety and productivity, but also with improving the image of the profession, among the future workers.
Progressively making the warehouse a safer, and a less-strenuous work environment is key to attracting prospective workers, and retaining them in the long term, thereby catering to the industry’s growing demand for human resources.
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