Singapore’s Changi airport recently announced that it will be implementing the use of AR-enabled Vuzix M300 smart glasses for its ground handling crew members. The cameras on the smart glasses scan a QR code on cargo and baggage containers and display relevant information such as weight, loading sequence, and allocated position within the aircraft. The smart glasses will also allow for easier audio communication between crew members, as well as streamline the work of the control center, who will have full access to the video feed of each pair of smart glasses.
Traditionally, ground handling crew members resort to manual loading instructions in the form of paper reports and walkie-talkies for communication. With the addition of heads-up display and noise cancellation enhanced audio communication, loading times are expected to be improved by 25% from 60 minutes to 45 minutes, leading to shorter wait times for the passengers. However, implications of this technology go beyond commercial applications; for logistic companies with large cargo planes, even small improvements in efficiency can translate into significant savings due to the scale of operation.
Smart glasses POV: Graphic overlay of information for containers allow for a more effective work process
Changi’s piloting smart glasses is another recent example of how smart glasses are gaining adoption in enterprise uses. In July, Google relaunched Glass 2.0 specifically targeting enterprise use cases ranging from manufacturing to logistics and health care. At DHL, Google Glass is used for receiving picking instructions and scanning packages, while at GE, Glass is used as an interactive assembly manual guiding wiring technicians step by step. GE Renewable Energy recently reported that it has seen a 34% increase in the efficiency of its wiring technicians, along with measurable quality improvements. This ability to access information without having to stop the task at hand can greatly increase the efficiency of workers, as well as address certain safety concerns. GE Aviation is also utilizing Google Glass to reduce assembly errors and improve the efficiency of engine maintenance tasks. Upskill, the developer of the software platform GE Aviation is running on Google Glass, reported that the implementation of Google Glass could save GE Aviation millions of dollars.
However, the technology for smart glasses is by no means mature, and still face some challenges before they enjoy full adoption. First, battery life is a point of concern for smart glasses. Without an additional battery pack to charge the glasses as they are being used, most smart glasses won’t last more than an hour or two. Second, as smart glasses become more prevalent in enterprises, connectivity, as well as bandwidth, can become an issue, especially in outdoor environments. This is especially important for use cases where smart glasses are utilized as a communication device for remote guidance, such as with the platform developed by Fieldbit. In rural areas where cellular connections are poor, or underground mines where signals do not reach, smart glasses will need to rely on localized connections such as Bluetooth for minimal functionality until reconnecting with the cloud. Lastly, wearables need to connect to the cloud to process data for further applications such as analytics and machine learning. Corporations are developing enabling technologies to address and improve upon the technical capabilities. Microsoft is developing new AI processors for its second version of HoloLens, ARM is developing new processors to power machine-learning machines, and Qualcomm is developing deep learning SDK (software development kit) for smartphones. Wearable electronics are now using similar components and crossing over between form factors to be used across multiple platforms. Integrated platforms are also being developed for multiple form factors to coexist and function together.
As Google has learned through its own experience, smart glasses are currently more valuable as an enterprise tool than a consumer product. With increasing adoption of this new form of wearable device, there still remains important developments to be addressed in both hardware and software. Large-scale operations such as the one in Changi airport could provide valuable insight to the refinement of the technology. Businesses interested in utilizing smart glasses for operations should consider running internal pilots to determine the best approach to adopt the technology, and tailor the device to their own needs. Otherwise, businesses face the risk that competitors who are early adopters of the technology will reap the efficiency and quality benefits while late adopters may not find a solution that fits their needs.
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By: Hirosei Kuruma