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Engaging workers with wearable technology for warehouses

Engaging workers with wearable technology for warehouses
Apart from tracking inventory and assets around the warehouse, another benefit of IoT is the ability to improve the accuracy and performance of human operators.
The use of IoT in warehouses creates several benefits that enable the convenience and improved accuracy of tracking inventory and assets, as well as the ability to increase the performance of human operators. It is very common for warehouses to hire many temporary workers at peak seasons, such as holiday seasons or sales promotions, to answer the increased demand for shipments during this time. Finding an easy-to-use and accurate technology for these employees is highly important and wearable devices and augmented reality are some of the options currently being explored.

“In our innovation lab, we are looking into options like providing workers with wearable video cameras that can upload information to the warehouse management system or with smart glasses. This augmented reality solution will give the operator a visual confirmation on a small screen in front of his eye that he is picking the right thing,” described John Bermudez, VP of Product Management in Infor.

“Wearable devices will add a new layer of visibility that does not exist now. It will work in route management, showing wearers where to go via the glasses, and pick and pack verification, where bar code scans or RFID readings in real time can be used to ensure correct pick and order management,” added Douglas Bellin, Global Lead for Manufacturing and Energy Industries at Cisco Systems.

The information collected from wearable devices can also be used for employee safety. This is important because not only does it ensures the employees’ wellbeing, but it also saves the company money, minimizing loss due to injured employees and lost productivity. The IBM Employee Wellness and Safety Solution gathers data from all kinds of wearable and environmental sensors and alerts workers and safety officers when danger is imminent.

“Our wearables platform serves as a real-time warning system. It analyzes a vast amount of information gathered from wearable sensors embedded in personal protective equipment, such as smart safety helmets and protective vests, and in the workers’ individual smartphones,” said Asaf Adi, Senior Manager of IoT and Wearables at IBM Research.

Information from the sensors and smart protective equipment feeds directly to the worker’s smartphone, which can then immediately process and analyze the personal data. Some of the gathered information is stored in the cloud for further analysis to improve safety regulations and procedures.

These sensors can continuously monitor a worker’s physical condition through his pulse rate, movement, body temperature, and hydration level. Other things the sensors can monitor include environmental factors such as noise level and the employees’ location in relation to moving machinery like forklifts. The solution can also identify and report potential risks such as a worker who is very close to operating machinery or one who is without a required safety helmet. It can also send out injury reports in cases like when it detects a worker that has fallen or fainted in the warehouse and alert first responders. “It can even alert if a worker seems to be suffering from low concentration or fatigue,” added Adi.

As wearable technology continues to improve and become more innovative, wearables for workers in warehouses not only significantly provides safety for employees, but also improves efficiency in job performance.

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