Using XR to See Underground: Interview with Arcadis’ Allison Yanites

Before EWTS 2019 went down last month, I had the chance to interview one of the event’s thought leaders. Check out our interview with Allison Yanites, Immersive Technology Lead at Arcadis, the global natural and built asset consulting firm.

Emily (BrainXchange): To begin, could you provide our readers with a little background on yourself and what you do at Arcadis? Also, when did you first encounter AR/VR?

Allison: I am the Immersive Technology Lead at Arcadis North America. I am currently working to find different ways that augmented reality, virtual reality and other related technologies can improve customer experience, health and safety, and quality of life. Before this role at Arcadis, I worked as a geologist on environmental remediation projects: understanding subsurface conditions such as layers of soil and rock, if any groundwater or soil contamination is present, and if impacts are static or still moving below ground.A big piece of that work was creating 3D visualizations of subsurface data to help our clients and stakeholders better understand the full picture of what is happening below ground and help determine the next steps to clean up any contamination.

A few years ago, our team developed a mixed reality visualization of one of these environmental sites, where our stakeholders could see and interact with a holographic image of the groundwater contamination of the site. That was my first real experience with immersive technology as an industry application, and it was a gamechanger for me. Working with our digital team at Arcadis, I wanted to look beyond just holographic visualizations of environmental models and see how much we can do with AR/VR across all of the types of programs Arcadis is involved with, how we can use immersive and 360 technology for design, engineering, project and management services across all markets.


E: So, you really start at the beginning of a project, with touring a site? 

A: It depends. On some projects, a lot of data has already been collected, such as sites that have been monitored for decades; on other projects we are collecting data in an area for the first time. Either way, we are taking a large collection of data and trying to understand the complex geological and chemical patterns underground, and ultimately, determine the best ways to remove chemical impacts at the site.


E: Can you speak a little more about Arcadis’ business and its customers (who they are)?

A: Arcadis is a natural and built asset consulting firm. We work in partnership with our clients to deliver sustainable outcomes throughout the lifecycle of their natural and built assets. We have 27,000 people in over 70 countries with expertise in design, consulting, engineering, project and management services, and we work with a wide range of markets and industries, including oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure and municipal water.

At Arcadis, our mission is to improve quality of life in the communities we serve. Whether that is by ensuring the environmental health of communities or reducing the amount of time people spend in traffic, we develop our solutions with our client’s end-users in mind. To design the most impactful solutions, Arcadis has committed to digitally transforming our business at every level of our organization. That includes training our staff on new digital capabilities, using cutting-edge technologies and then applying our subject matter expertise. We then use these tools and skills to better understand, and address, our client’s needs.


E: How is Arcadis using augmented and virtual reality? What pain points does AR/VR address?

A: Arcadis is using augmented and virtual reality in different ways across a variety of projects. Our immersive technology practice includes on-site visualization with different types of headsets, 360-degree photos, video and virtual tours, and remote assistance with AR capabilities. Generally, immersive technology is addressing four main pain points. The first is increased safety — for example, we can share access to difficult-to-reach sites with 360-degree imagery or livestream video, and bring additional staff or clients to the site virtually. Ultimately, we must keep people safe while still collecting as much data as possible. The second is speed of decision making for example, using AR to overlay a 3D design over an active construction site helps quickly identify any differences between the plan and the current project status. The third is cost reduction — for example, we can now virtually connect project teams and clients to remote sites. This reduces travel and helps reduce the costs associated with delayed communication or unplanned rework. And the fourth is enhancing stakeholder communication and collaboration — for example, virtual 360-degree site tours and remote assistance are virtually bringing staff, clients, and stakeholders to the site where they can participate in discussions about site conditions or questions on certain issues. AR/VR visualizations also greatly improve our communication of design plans or subsurface data visualization.


E: I imagine there are a lot of new demands for the built environment, especially with climate change. Do you think that AR/VR are unleashing more creativity, enabling designers to do things they’ve never done before?

A: Absolutely. There is a lot of power in using AR/VR to understand how the environment is changing, and how to prepare communities and businesses accordingly. AR and VR visualizations can communicate designs to stakeholders that address sustainability needs or flood and storm resilience. AR/VR technology also gives designers the flexibility to share their designs with stakeholders more clearly and effectively, with a greater level of detail, than ever before. When you use AR/VR to see first-hand how a flood level impacts homes and businesses, it takes on a greater urgency than it may have before. We are also using AR/VR technology for training situations, and many training scenarios are relevant to our changing environment and being prepared for the future.


E: How have customers received the technology? Was it easy for them to use? Have any clients adopted AR/VR for themselves?

A: We have had success applying immersive technology services, and it’s exciting to see this technology expand and scale in our industry. At the same time, we are continually working to apply the right technologies for the right projects, and find new ways to solve problems for clients. These technologies are a moving target; they evolve so quickly. It seems like every few weeks there is a new product, software/hardware capability, or integration that opens new opportunities for how AR/VR can be applied. In addition to gaining traction and adoption with the services and capabilities we have established, we are constantly evaluating how we can solve emerging client challenges with new and immersive technology.


E: What was piloting like? Was there an actual test period and were there any major challenges to using the technology at Arcadis?

A: Several years ago, we started with a few different pilots and tested different AR glasses, VR headsets, 360-degree cameras and various software programs to develop content. Each of the solutions or services that we have explored has been rigorously tested, and if appropriate is then developed internally or in partnership with our clients. We are still doing pilots because the space is evolving. With one particular workflow there might be an update in either the hardware or the software that offers a new opportunity, so we’ll go in and test that. The pilots are really tied to the problems we can solve and the solutions we can bring to our clients, working with them to customize what we do with these different tools.


E: Where does the content come from?

A: So far, we have developed everything on our own. We use plugins and software to create content, but the content is coming from our own project locations and 3D designs, like wastewater treatment plant designs, environmental remediation sites or highway infrastructure designs. We already work in those spaces so we have the data sets, which we can use to create the AR/VR visualizations. Through our FieldNow™ program, we have also committed to collecting data 100 percent digitally, which means we can now apply this technology to more projects than ever before.


E: How do you measure the ROI of AR/VR at Arcadis?

A: ROI varies from project to project, but does generally come back to the four KPIs: Increased safety, speed of decision making, cost reduction, and enhanced stakeholder communication and collaboration.


E: How has Arcadis handled the security part of adoption?

A: Arcadis takes data security very seriously. Our group works with our IT department to thoroughly vet each technology against industry security standards. Additionally, our use of each of these technologies is also typically evaluated by our clients to make sure it is compliant with their security protocols. Security is always a leading factor in any new technology we adopt.


E: Are there any applications you’re hoping to test in the future at Arcadis?

A: We are constantly evaluating what we can do to exceed our client’s changing expectations. As new applications and technologies become more accessible, we want to make sure we are equipped to address both traditional and emerging client challenges.

Beyond finding new ways to integrate software platforms, we are starting to leverage the internet of things and wearable technologies more frequently. As a large company that is involved in many different industries, Arcadis uses a lot of different software programs. For each software program (3D design visualization, data analytics, program management system, etc.), we develop unique workflows to create AR/VR and 360 visualizations and/or integrate with a program management system. We are always looking for new software products or software updates that make it easier to integrate AR/VR into our daily routines.


E: With sensors in the environment and wearables, I assume you’re gathering new kinds of information for these models?

A: Absolutely. We are using sensor data, which provides real-time results that can be fed into our data analytics platforms and visualized in different ways. We are also excited about platforms that can house data and be updated in a seamless way, so a whole project team across the globe has access to one central data set.


E: What are your greatest hopes for this technology?

A: As immersive technology becomes more mainstream and awareness keeps spreading about its value for industry, it is exciting to see how many ways immersive technology is adopted and applied. This technology is still so new, I am excited to follow its evolution and see what will be possible in five, 10 and even 30 years. My hope is that as the technology starts to deliver more and more value to businesses, we also see increasingly creative ways to improve quality of life in communities around the world.

Building the Future of Exoskeletons: Meet Dr. William G. Billotte

He’s working with BMW, Boeing and others to introduce standards and raising the bar in the exoskeleton market: Meet Dr. William G. Billotte, Physical Scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Vice Chairman of the ASTM F48 Exoskeleton and Exosuit committee. I got to interview Dr. Billotte on the importance of standards and fundamental work of NIST. Read our conversation: (Full bio at the end)

Emily: To begin, could you provide a little background on yourself and NIST? When did you first start working on exoskeleton tech?

W: My background is I’m an engineer and a biologist with a bachelors and masters degree in engineering and a PhD in biology, and I’ve been working in the biology/engineering area for probably 17 or so years, providing scientific and technical guidance to different federal agencies, first responders and other organizations. I’ve worked in a number of different areas: biological detection, first responder equipment, critical infrastructure protection, etc. I’ve been in the exoskeleton area since around 2014. I work for a federal organization, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the Department of Commerce (see here for some history).  I’ve been here since 2009 as a physical scientist.

I worked for the Department of Defense before I came to NIST, and I was a consultant here in the D.C. area before that as a bioscience advisor, ever since 2002.


E: What is ASTM? How did it form and who is involved?

W: ASTM is an international standards development organization and there are a bunch of standards development organizations. It’s a non-profit. NIST works with a number of similar organizations across the world. ASTM is where we set up the F48 Committee on Exoskeletons and Exosuits around 2017. We talked to a number of different standards development organizations and it seemed like the best fit was with ASTM. I’m the Vice-chairman on the F48 Committee but I’m not an employee for ASTM; it’s a volunteer-type thing. Everybody has their day job and does standards also.

Here is a link to a recent paper describing the development of ASTM F4

For your reference, there is legislation that encourages federal agencies to use and participate in voluntary consensus standards [National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA), Public Law 104‐113.]


E: Are the companies actually building and using exoskeletons a part of F48?

W: We’ve got around 130 members. Anyone can join. We have meetings about twice a year face-to-face and then meetings all year long sort of how we are now. We’re trying to get standards out there that meet the needs of industry. That’s how standards work in the U.S.; they come from the ground up. If you look on your computer, the USB port is just one example of the many standards that people use every day and rely upon. Similarly, we want standards so that exoskeletons can be tested and manufacturers can easily demonstrate to their users that they’re safe and reliable. We want some guidance out there, like we just passed one standard for labeling exoskeletons. How do you put labels on these and give the user or buyer some information? That was a standard to help the manufacturers label their products and provide the right info for the user—very basic stuff right now. We’re still at the beginning stages of getting standards out there for exoskeletons. It’s an exciting time because there’s a lot to do.


E: What is the exoskeleton market like today? 

W: Bobby Marinov, who is also on the F48 committee and runs a website called the Exoskeleton Report, has written a number of articles about this on his site, in Forbes and other places. He has a good snapshot of the market, which is this: In the past two years, you’ve gone from 20 or so exoskeletons being used in the automotive industry in a few places in the U.S. to almost 1,000 worldwide, and that’s just the auto industry and mainly on the assembly line. Chris Reid’s team at Boeing has done a tremendous amount of work in this area, too; Chris is actually the leader of one of our subcommittees and he’s very involved in the ergonomics community. We’re having a face-to-face meeting at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in Seattle in the Fall.


E: What counts as an exoskeleton?

W: You’ve gotten to the hard question here. We struggled for at least two years, even before the committee was set up, we started working on how to define the term exoskeleton and how is an exoskeleton any different than a smartwatch or smart clothing. Why is a smartwatch not an exoskeleton? It augments you, gives you different capabilities, you wear it…We had lots of discussions like that. When I see one, I know what it is but how do we define it, and that’s how we got to a definition: A wearable device that augments you physically through mechanical interaction with the body (The ASTM standard definition of an exoskeleton is “wearable device that augments, enables, assists, and/or enhances physical activity through mechanical interaction with the body.”)

We’re not trying to exclude anything. For example, there is an exoskeleton in the consumer market that helps you to ski, but there aren’t a lot of products in the consumer space (that’s the only one that I’m aware of). And we don’t use the word partial; we just say it’s an exoskeleton that just happens to be for the upper body like those that help for overhead work. Because we’re not thinking about it as a giant Iron Man suit. There’s another one, a glove that assists you in grabbing—that’s an exoskeleton.


E: What are the top 3 industrial sectors where exoskeletons stand to have the greatest impact?

W: The big three groups are industrial, medical and military. I think these are three areas where exoskeletons are going to move forward the fastest. From what I’ve seen so far, there has been a big drive in the manufacturing sector like automotive, airplane manufacturing, those types of environments. There are some possibilities in the construction industry, but it hasn’t gone as far as we’ve seen in automotive. Another great possibility is the agricultural sector. Think of anything that involves hard physical labor, a task where you have to lift something, or where there is an awkward static posture; those give you a lot of opportunities. Really, the value of exoskeletons comes down to economics: Work-related injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, overexertion—these cost billions of dollars every year. It’s really easy to justify, which is why big and small companies are looking at this. It keeps workers safe and on the job, reduces the risk of injuries, and workers can do higher quality work for a longer period of time. That’s the potential. Do we have concrete evidence for every exoskeleton? No, we need to do a lot more studies, especially longitudinal studies, but there are enough studies out there than you can see the potential.


E: Where are you right now with exoskeleton standards and why are standards so important?

W: Standards are so important to organizations and countries because they help shape a marketplace so that you can have reliable products, safe products, and the ability to sell in a fair-trade type situation on a worldwide scale.

E: Are there any studies to back up the value of exoskeletons in industrial workplaces? How do you test the devices? 

W: NIST is a metrology institute. We do research on how to measure things and help set the measures used by everyone in the U.S. We compare those measures to other institutes around the world. NIST is developing test methods; and so, yes, we are doing some testing but we’re not testing the exoskeletons to test the exoskeletons per se; we’re doing testing with the exoskeletons to figure out how we can test all of them. We’ve gotten a few exoskeletons and developed some load-handling tasks and run a number of test subjects through to test the test method, and that is being documented. That test method will then go into our ASTM F48 committee to get massaged some and at some point it will get voted on and hopefully become a standard.


E: The exoskeletons that companies can buy today haven’t gone through this testing. Is it kind of like the Wild West right now?

W: It’s not exactly the Wild West. There has been a lot of testing, but everyone has done their own testing. That is the power of developing a standard test method because then you can compare devices. Chris Reid at Boeing has tested a lot of exoskeletons, but I can’t take his data and compare it to the data from Ford. I don’t know what tools and metrics they used. That’s why we need a repeatable standard method, so any lab can use that test method and everyone can trust the results. This will lead to a standards based certification process which helps manufacturers show the basic performance and safety of their system and will allow for the end users to not have to inherit the burden of assessing the system other than for company specific applicability.


E: So, the market is kind of regulating itself right now?

W: Well, it’s like any nascent market. The only place that you have regulations right now is the medical exoskeleton market because the FDA in the U.S. regulates all medical products and there are a number medical exoskeletons certified by the FDA that are used mainly in clinics. But it’s different than what you see on an automotive line in that usually the operator of the exoskeleton isn’t the person wearing the device; it’s the nurse or therapist. Think about someone learning how to walk again after a stroke. With exoskeletons, you can give patients “higher doses” of walking in a session with a therapist, speeding up the recovery process.

E: Would the ASTM work directly with the regulatory bodies in different industries?

W: We’re hoping the standards that we develop through F48 will be referenced by regulatory bodies, even the FDA. There may not be any regulation in the industrial market.

Here is a link to the NIOSH Center for Occupational Robotics Research.  They look at exoskeletons also and their research would feed in to any industrial focused standards or regulations on exoskeletons.


E: One of my “pet areas of research” is women in the workforce. Do exoskeletons have the potential to enable more women to work in industrial sectors and is there any testing being done on the female body, which is very different from the male body (height, breasts/hips, even spinal cords)?

W: In the testing we’re doing right now at NIST, we’re using men and women. But we don’t see any exoskeletons out there that can make someone stronger than they are right now. If the job requirement is to lift 100 pounds and you can only lift 25 pounds; the devices I am familiar with won’t lift the weight for you. An exoskeleton would help the person to lift the weight more safely and with more repetition. Some may advertise about giving you additional weightlifting capability but as far as the testing I have seen there isn’t anything that can augment your strength like that. But that’s not really the issue. It’s fitting. We’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time, especially in law enforcement. Body armor was developed for a male physique and slightly modified for females and it doesn’t work very well. We’ve been working for years trying to fix that. I hope the exoskeleton community designs for females from the beginning; we’re not going to design a male-fitting exoskeleton and then slightly modify it for females. There will be exoskeletons that fit better for men and ones designed for the female body and even ones that can be easily modified for any wearer.

E: What do you hope to accomplish in 2020 and when do you think exoskeletons will become standard in industrial environments?

W: I think exoskeletons are well on their way to becoming common in the workplace. Seeing how it’s rolling out in the manufacturing sector, aerospace, automotive, etc. I think they will be even more common in 2020. I’m sort of biased but I want to see more standards so that everyone can have an increased sense of reliability and safety with these exoskeletons. Standards will also help stimulate the market.

 

 

Dr. William Billotte currently serves as a physical scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).  In that position, he helps industrial, military, medical, and public safety communities with their national and homeland security standards and technology needs.  Current activities include serving as a principal scientific advisor to Army for exoskeleton standards and technology issues and serving as the vice chairman of the ASTM F48 Exoskeleton and Exosuit committee.  Prior to joining NIST, Dr. Billotte was a CBRNE scientist for the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR).  For NAVWAR, he managed programs to test, evaluate, acquire and share information on CBRNE detection and responder technologies. This included supporting the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s New Campus East construction, the FEMA CEDAP (Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program), the FEMA Responder Knowledge Base (RKB) and the DHS SAVER program.  Prior to joining NAVWAR, Dr. Billotte served as a bioscience advisor for Booz Allen Hamilton where he supported DoD, DARPA, the Intelligence Community, and DHS in the biotechnology, chemical/biological defense and responder technology areas.

Dr. Billotte holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Dayton, a Master of Science in Engineering from Wright State University, and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology.

 

*Image source: NBC News

Wearables in Risk Management: Interview with AIG’s Ron Bellows

I got to sit down and talk with Ron Bellows, Risk Strategist at AIG. What resulted is a fascinating- but long (it’s worth it) – read and a wealth of information. Ron will be speaking at EWTS 2019.

E: To begin, could you provide our readers with a little background on yourself and what you did at AIG? Also, when did you first encounter wearable technology?

R: I’ve been a risk management consultant with multiple insurance companies since 1980. I started playing with wearables probably as early as 1985/86. You may remember Cybermatics: Surface EMG measuring technology was connected to cyber gym equipment for rehab and prevention, so that when someone was working out – in the sports or medical world – you could actually see what the muscles were doing with the surface electromyography. It’s kind of like an EKG. Your heart is a muscle; surface EMG looks at other muscles.

Around ’86, I was working with a physical therapist doing studies on sports medicine and rehabilitation that might have application in the industrial environment. Many workers’ compensation injuries are expensive strain and sprain injuries impacting the musculoskeletal system. Biosensors, from a rehab standpoint, help us manage treatment for someone who has had a musculoskeletal injury. It began in the sports world and medicine, and around 2000 it started to become more pervasive in the industrial environment.

If you think about an athlete who over-trains, the same thing can happen in the industrial world.  Biosensors can measure posture, force, repetition, etc.; and be used to look at someone in the workplace from a preventative standpoint as well as on a pre-hiring/screening basis (i.e., can you handle the physical requirements of the job?) If you took a traditional physical, you might pass, but could you go in and work on a factory floor or warehouse for 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week? Biosensors to better evaluate somebody before they go on the job to help assess their ability. Second value would be to evaluate somebody in the job to document the exposure they face due to fatigue, endurance, force, repetition and posture—the things that generally lead to ergonomic/ bio mechanic injuries. If you can detail that exposure prior to injury you can do a better job with prevention, training and hiring. However, if somebody does get hurt you can use those same biosensors to help assess exactly where and how badly they are injured, the best treatment options, and if they truly are ok to go back to work again. Those are the three main areas where wearables fit into the industrial arena and workers’ compensation (WC).


E: What exactly do you do at AIG?

R: I’ve consulted with large multinational customers to help them find solutions to their risk management issues. Often, they were most interested in workers’ comp risk because it tends to drive loss frequency and severity, impacts the workforce and absenteeism, and reduces efficiency and profitability. Workers tend to be 30-50% of a company’s operating expense, so if you can reduce injuries you can increase efficiency, profitability, etc. Today with the shortage of workers that we see, a lot of companies are working at a 20% absenteeism rate. Imagine what happens when you can’t find enough people to man the tasks in a factory. If you also have extensive injuries that put people out of work or on restrictive duty, it’s even more difficult to run the business. Making sure people can work safely and come back to the job every day is very important to risk managers. I also help risk managers with issues like fleet, liability, supply chain, business continuity, and disaster recovery—anything that keeps them up at night.


E: You just mentioned a bunch of pain points like the shortage of workers. What are the challenges and pain points for AIG’s clients that are driving interest in wearable technologies?

R: There are really two things: One is traditional safety, making sure we document exposure properly so that we can prevent injuries and do better training. It’s not just job hazard analysis but also the workers’ comp system itself, which is very difficult to manage as the venues are all different and every state has different rules. If we can document exposure, we can better manage an individual pre and post-loss. Many times, we see that older, high tenure workers are driving losses. We’re seeing the average age of workers going up, especially in manufacturing, warehousing, trucking, etc. where you have extensive injuries to the shoulder and back. Those injuries are the most difficult to diagnose, treat, and return to work. If you’re older and you get hurt, it may take you weeks to get back to where you were pre-loss. Our average workforce is in the 40- to 50-year range, so when they have an injury it’s impacted by comorbidity – hypertension, diabetes, obesity – making it more difficult for them to get back to pre-injury status.

Second, many companies today are looking at exoskeletons or other interventions to reduce exposure. When you put an intervention in place you don’t know for sure how much of an impact it’s having on the individual, because everyone is different. With biosensors, we can measure the impact of different interventions and see which ones are having the greatest impact on the worker based on their exposure. For example, I would use different exoskeletons for the upper extremities versus the back, versus the legs. So, it depends on what kind of difficulties workers are having in the workplace. For example, if I have to do static standing all day on a conveyor line, exoskeletons may not be valuable, but the biosensors can tell me what’s going on with the static stress on the lower extremities, which impacts the entire body. I can then look for alternatives like automatic massage therapy, continuous stretching, compression sleeves, to improve endurance and reduce fatigue where the exoskeletons don’t work.


E: What kinds of wearable technologies are you looking at for risk mitigation? Have any solutions made it past the pilot phase to rollout?

R: There are a lot. The biosensor marketplace has exploded in the last several years. We can use biosensors like we’ve talked about from a musculoskeletal standpoint and that’s where most of the impact is seen. But you can also use biosensors to look at an environment: A construction worker going into a pit that may be lacking oxygen can use a biosensor attached to an iPhone that sends a safety signal. You can use a posture monitor for the back like I did with the Visiting Nurse Association. Nurses visiting patients by themselves can be attacked, chased by dogs, fall down stairs, etc. Having an inclinometer or GPS monitor can send an automatic ‘man down’ signal if they’re horizontal. If they can’t push a panic button, their supervisor and local authorities can be alerted to the fact that something is wrong. That’s just one example. Biosensors in chemical plants can look at oxygen-deficient environments and exposure to chemicals and send an alert right away to the individual or supervisor. So, if you’re working remotely in a plant and there’s an ammonia tank with a small leak, the biosensor can alert you to very low levels before you’re overcome. There are so many different ways to use biosensors to alert you to exposure before it creates injury.


E: In most cases are you looking for over-the-counter, out-of-the-box solutions or bespoke devices? Where is the software being made?

R: I review what’s in the market and what’s in development. I try to stay abreast of what’s available so that I can help clients make the best and most informed decisions about how to reduce exposure. There are always several intervention options that could have an impact, so I usually demo and then pilot test the options that fit the particular exposures but also their organization structure and culture. So, I’m always looking to kick the tires on everything around the market.


E: I imagine biosensors come in every form factor at this point. Is it one sensor per device or are you testing multiple metrics?

R: Let’s take posture monitoring as an example, which is huge in workers’ comp because 30-50% of a company’s losses are from strains. Everyone wants to work on musculoskeletal disorders, which also happen to be the most expensive loss type. Inclinometers which measure posture are great because force, repetition and posture are the lead drivers of strain and sprain injuries. You can do heavier work in the power zone between your shoulders and hips, but outside of neutral posture a task becomes more egregious to your body.

Many companies are doing posture monitoring; some are focusing on the upper extremities, some on the low back. Several biosensor companies have produced very good software programs to go along with the inclinometers, showing not only when someone is out of neutral posture but also how many times a day that person is out of neutral posture, for how long, at which tasks, or what times of day, etc. Some biosensors give an automatic response to the employee (like a buzz). That can be good or bad. If I can’t change my posture because the task is set up so that I have to bend a certain way, the buzzer is going to be continuous and become really annoying. That’s where I would take the data to management and operations and say: Here’s Joe and Mike doing the same job but Mike can’t handle the postures. Why? Because he’s a little older and can’t bend as well at the knees. So, posture monitoring without the dashboard is not as effective. The better the dashboard, the better data we have and the more opportunity we have to provide valuable interventions to the physical task.


E: Can the intervention involve changing the way the task is done?

R: Yes. In fact, we can even link biosensors through a software program to a camera, so that as a person moves, we can see both the physical video and an overlay of what’s going on with his or her posture and force over time. While seeing the person do their task in space and time, we’re capturing their force and posture. That becomes really powerful. We can do that over time, creating a dashboard for different tasks, and then give an employer a prioritized list of the most egregious tasks, where high force and high repetition are most likely to generate a musculoskeletal disorder. So, biosensors with a dashboard and video overlay are very powerful in exposure documentation.


E: Can you talk about some of your recent biometrics and exoskeleton projects?

R: Well, anybody familiar with meat processing knows that it’s a very high endurance, high repetition task impacting the upper extremities and back. It’s static stress on the legs, leaning, twisting and bending at the waist, and moving your arms to process meat. Every part of the body is impacted; the repetition is so intense that you’re moving a carcass every 2 seconds. You’re constantly moving, standing in one place doing the same motion over and over, and you’re usually working a 10-hour shift, 6 days a week. Operations, safety and HR know it’s a difficult task but to change the process is very expensive. You might have to move the conveyor circling the entire plant or slow it down, which operations won’t like. Or, you’re going to have to build adjustable stanchions for people to stand up on. Oftentimes in fixed manufacturing plants, it’s very difficult to change the physical process, so we look at other interventions. The biosensors give us data on where the most difficult task/positions are and where management can spend their nickels to make the best impact. You can give them engineering solutions but if they don’t have the money for re-engineering there are alternative solutions like endurance and fatigue management or job rotation, or even just ongoing stretching throughout the day. You mitigate the exposure if you can’t eliminate it. We look for engineering solutions first, but older plants especially have a hard time putting those automation or engineering changes in place.


E: How are you measuring the ROI of the different solutions you’re implementing? What are the KPIs you’re looking for?

R: Primarily, I look at two things when it’s workers’ comp-related: Loss frequency rate: The number of injury accidents per hundred employees (for example, how many strains and sprains we have per task before and after a solution is implemented) and average cost of claim: How does that cost change after the solution is implemented? We try to reduce both frequency and severity of loss.

Here’s a good example: One 24-hour plant of 400 employees had 50 visits to the nurse everyday looking for splints, gauze wraps, and other assistance. You know that the more times people are going to the nurse, the greater the likelihood you’ll have a claim eventually. We implemented endurance / fatigue solutions and then looked at the number of individuals visiting the nurse and in some tasks the number dropped by 80%. That’s telling because it takes a while for the claims numbers to mature enough to tell you statistically significant results. If I have a short change over time, is it just that introducing the solution made everyone more aware? 18 months is about where you have to be to really see a material change in losses. So, we look at other metrics like online perception and symptom surveys. I’ve used therapy to reduce endurance and fatigue injuries and after each session, we give a quick survey asking how the person felt before and after the fatigue management program. We can then see if we’re going down the right road and match up the results to the loss analysis in the future.


E: RFID devices, body-worn (biometric tracking) wearables, and exoskeletons—which category is most mature and deployable today?

R: Posture monitors. The inclinometers and GPS are the most robust and have some of the best software. RFID is good but you have to understand what the exposure is and what end result you’re trying to get to. RFID chips are really good in environments like construction, where it’s noisy, dark and dusty and vision and hearing are impaired. RFID chips give me another sense to avoid exposure. It can also be used for equipment or where people are working very remotely, to see where somebody is working in a plant and where they’ve been. But posture monitors are probably the most robust in terms of software because, again, everyone’s trying to mitigate the strain and sprain injuries. Industrial hygiene (IH) exposure doesn’t have the same frequency of loss as strains and sprains and has been controlled very well over the last 20 years; it’s gotten a lot of attention and there are so many good programs in place.


E: Is ergonomics slightly newer?

R: Ergonomics has been developing since the mid-80s, but it’s interesting that we haven’t found a silver bullet solution, so we’ve done a lot of training. Office ergonomics got a lot of attention. ‘Ergonomic’ became a buzz word and a marketing ploy, and now a lot of equipment is considered ‘ergonomic.’ For example, you can buy a snow shovel that’s “ergonomic”, but the actual exposure to the individual hasn’t really changed. Carpal tunnel syndrome was huge in the late 90s and early 2000s, then the Mayo Clinic and other studies said that the aging workforce is driving CTS more than typing. Today in the workers’ comp arena, an individual’s physical condition can be as much a factor in injury development as the workplace exposure. The comorbidity or illness can make a simple injury so much more difficult to diagnose and treat and this is why wellness and ergonomics need to be considered together. Wearables are helping us communicate exposure to the operations managers who usually hold the intervention purse strings. Ergonomists haven’t done a great job of this in the past, but the biosensors give us data on an individual or task basis that is very telling for operations, human resources and safety teams.


E: How have employees received wearables? What has been the feedback? Are there privacy concerns and how are you dealing with that?

R: A lot of the biosensors are applied directly to the skin and managers are very skeptical or skittish about that. So, in looking at which wearable is going to work for a company you have to consider the unions, female workers, people that don’t speak English etc. You have to think about having an interpreter, if someone will have an allergy to the spray or adhesive used to attach the biosensor… What if you have a lot of hair on your back? Part of my focus is always communicating these considerations to the risk manager: Given the exposure model they face and the loss profile they have, which tasks are driving the losses, what’s the exposure model for the people doing those tasks, and what are the right biosensors to use to fit their organization’s culture.


E: Are they more receptive if the sensor is in a bracelet?

R: You get better, deeper data especially from a force standpoint if you can attach something to the skin. If you can’t you have to use a halter monitor around the chest or a belt-worn device, something on the biceps if upper extremities are the issue, a bracelet on the arm etc. That’s why it’s important to know the loss profile and exposure model for the risk before adopting a wearable product–what tasks are driving loss and what options the company is willing to consider for solutions.


E: What is your hope for the future as for how wearables are developing? What’s a big development you’d like to see?

R: Right now, biosensors are really good at looking at exposure, giving us a dashboard and helping us come up with solution options. Of course, you need to know what’s available and understand the organization culture; but we’re not using biosensors to their full effectiveness in the hiring, and screening process or the post loss injury management.  In WC, early objective medical diagnosis is critical to managing loss costs especially with strain and sprain injuries, and biosensors can be a substantial benefit in that area – including developing telemedicine programs.  We’re also not always closing the loop between risk management, safety, HR and operations in terms of exposure understanding and the implementation of interventions. Consider how many workplace tasks are developed with the idea that there will be one, two or three injuries per year in that task? The answer is none, but we accept those types of metrics as part of the cost of production. We’re collecting good loss and exposure data but not integrating safety intervention into process the way we do with quality. Biosensors give me the detailed exposure information I need to express business and human cost and help qualify the rationale for the interventions needed to reduce exposure. If I can provide detailed documentation of exposure, I can communicate better to Risk Management so they can do a better job of funding exposure reduction solutions and provide the insight for stronger diagnosis, treatment and return to work practices if a loss occurs. You’d be amazed how many loss profiles show repeat injuries, which get exponentially more expensive.  Biosensors can therefore have a significant impact in all three areas of the WC exposure control model:  Hiring, Screening and Deployment; Prevention and Training and Post Loss Injury Management…

 

Photo credit: Lara de Oliveira Corselet dB via photopin (license)

Ron will present a case study at the upcoming 6th Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit on September 19.

End Users Share Real Challenges of Wearable Tech Software

Finger Food Studios’ Graham Cunliffe leads a panel discussing the current state of the enterprise wearable market and the challenges of deploying business-ready wearable applications. Graham is joined by Caterpillar’s Jeff Lind, Southwest Airlines’ Chris Grubbs, Walmart’s Steven Lewis and United Technologies’ Peggy Wu. They discuss the considerations that help an organization determine appropriate software solutions. Common pain points include the scalability and portability of solutions across devices and the relative lack of off-the-shelf solutions. The panelists guide us through resolving functionality gaps for end users, the difficulties of establishing and navigating software partnerships with vendors, and the handling of data within the enterprise for seamless integration across digital platforms.

Insider Secrets to Adopting Wearables

Watch this throwback 2016 expert panel led by Upskill’s Brian Ballard, in which enterprise end users from Jacobs Engineering, Powerstream Inc., the AES Corporation, and Intel share their secrets to adopting wearables. Some key insights include referring to the people closest to the problem (i.e. the workers), getting them involved early in the process and allowing them to opt in; creating a partnership between the business and IT sides of your organization; and talking to the standards bodies for your industry from the get-go. In addition, don’t underestimate the impact on your company’s infrastructure, as content and information management are key challenges in this space, especially when it comes to AR.

Build a Culture of Bottom-up Innovation and More Advice for Adopting AR/VR and Wearables

In this video from last month’s Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit in Austin, Upskill’s Brian Ballard leads early wearable tech adopters from Toyota, Duke Energy, Merck and Southern Company in a discussion around strategies for accelerating an organization’s wearable journey. Though the panelists represent very different operating environments; they all agree that an agnostic approach to hardware, end user input and feedback, having systems of bottom-up innovation in place, line-side support during rollout, and room to fail are key components to successful adoption. Enjoy this first-hand advice available nowhere else but EWTS:

 

The Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit (EWTS) is an annual conference dedicated to the use of wearable technology for business and industrial applications. As the leading event for enterprise wearables, EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. The 6th annual EWTS will be held September 17-19, 2019 in Dallas, TX. More details, including agenda and early confirmed speakers, to come on the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, returns to Santa Clara, CA May 29-31, 2019. Join us for the biggest AWE yet and help celebrate the show’s 10th Anniversary! Apply to speak and/or exhibit at AWE 2019on the event website.

Interview with Sam Murley, EHS Digital Acceleration Leader at General Electric

With workplace injuries and accidents costing U.S. employers alone over $60 billion a year, it’s not surprising that safety has emerged as a key productivity-boosting and cost-saving application for wearable technologies and other emerging tech. I spoke with Sam Murley, EHS Digital Acceleration Leader at General Electric, about how GE is currently piloting and deploying body-worn sensors, exoskeletons, AR/VR, and more along with Sam’s vision for the future of EHS. Sam has been an inspiring thought leader at several Enterprise Wearable Technology Summits–don’t miss his case study “EHS 2.0 and The Predictive Digital Model” this October in Austin at EWTS 2018!

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

E: To start, could you provide us with a little background on yourself and your career, and what you do at GE?

S: I’m the EHS Digital Acceleration Leader at GE and oversee the innovation and emerging technology portfolio for environment, health and safety (EHS) . Our EHS innovation portfolio focuses on incubating the exploration and accelerating the adoption of emerging technologies and wearable devices through a Pilot-to-Deployment process. The goal is to eliminate certain hazards and risks within work environments, increase safety in general, increase operational excellence, and drive efficiency to give time back to frontline EHS teams through digital means.


E: Can you give us an example of a wearable tech pilot or idea that you ran by employees and got off the ground?

S: We have roughly 2,000 wearable devices being evaluated or piloted at this time in addition to wearables that are being deployed. They fall into 6 technology categories: Smart eyewear/heads-up displays; exoskeletons and ergonomic sensors; industrial hygiene monitoring IoT devices; lone worker management devices and platforms; hazard-sensing bands; and robots and drones that can perform hazardous inspections while keeping someone safe on the ground. We have nearly 65 pilot programs running globally, supporting almost 170 individual teams.

Something really fresh and about to make it past the pilot stage are ergonomic sensors. The tech allows EHS to do what it does today but takes it from pen and paper to a sensor and connected system in order to understand who’s at most risk and why, who needs coaching or intervention—you can’t do this as effectively by watching someone over the course of a month and recording the data by hand. With wearable tech, you can do it in 24 hours.

Say John Doe was at a critical safety score nearing a back injury last week: We made changes in the work environment and his safety score went back up. Or, maybe it continued to trend down, giving EHS insights to try a form of mechanical intervention such as an exoskeleton. I think the most successful technology gives you immediate feedback while measuring some activity in the human body or environment and tying it back into a decision-making platform.


E: So, how do employees react? How do you protect employee data?

S: It is important and absolutely necessary to manage the risks that new technology can introduce.  In general, for every technology we evaluate and ultimately use, we take it through a comprehensive and thorough data privacy and labor relations review. We partner with global and regional compliance teams and have a self-service innovation hub where business leaders, EHS teams, and employees can learn more about the different technologies, join a pilot, or learn how to use deployment ready wearables.


E: You mentioned robots for inspection. How can robots increase safety and productivity and for what types of use cases and tasks?

S: A few use cases come to mind such as confined space entry, where work is performed at heights, and hazardous inspections. Instead of having a worker perform a visual inspection inside a large tank, EHS can deploy tracked and aerial drones, sending the companion robot into the environment with a front-facing camera that can be controlled and viewed from any remote location—the human is still making the decisions but is now augmented by the robot. If there are harmful hazards workers could be exposed to, it might be a good opportunity to introduce a robot, something that crawls or has a magnetized track (think of working at heights). With exoskeletons, the question is “Where’s the less hazardous work being performed consistently or in more repetition?” A welder for example who experiences high shoulder fatigue at the end of his shift might benefit from the use of a shoulder exoskeleton. It just comes down to the hazards and how often the task is performed.


E: Is there any one major problem or obstacle you encountered and successfully worked through?

S: Yeah, and we’re continuing to work through it: Deployment. When you have something that has been evaluated and piloted by hundreds of users, when does that just become the norm? It’s making the transition collectively, looking at it not as emerging technology but as off-the-shelf digital PPE (personal protective equipment). These are things that can save lives today, just as your insulated gloves would. That’s a big leap, but we’re doing it at GE.

These technologies don’t live in labs; they’re ready to go. The obstacle lies in how you communicate that. The effort of taking it to true deployment involves essentially running an internal marketing campaign with commercials and launch kits. You have to build awareness, find stakeholders, understand where the tech should go and who to introduce it to after the pilot. This new product introduction (NPI) is just as, if not more, important than your pilot.


E: I think a few years ago it was how do I create a proof of concept, how do I pilot, and now it’s how do I scale, which is a good sign. So, as far as the different devices you’re testing and using, how do you find these solutions?

S: All sorts of ways: Connecting with folks at events like EWTS or AWE, through industry organizations, with Google alerts, and by benchmarking and sharing tech with other organizations. We’re always on the lookout for new startups, trying to link up with companies coming into the space. Behind that it’s “Okay, as a company what are the top 10 EHS issues we’re trying to solve? Let’s take the data we have and use it as a compass to find the right solutions.


E: How do you measure or determine the success of incorporating new technologies at GE?

S: What we look for is the ability to quantify that the technology is actually reducing the likelihood of injuries and/or generating more time (reducing the burden of managing risks) and using data to understand the impact. We can reduce 10 ergonomic injuries this year, but what does that mean and what, then, is the ROI of doing a broader investment?


E: Are you looking at AR+VR for EHS or is it still futuristic?

S: Definitely. From a corporate EHS side, we’re looking at it in terms of how to transfer knowledge, how to modernize training packages and content to make it more impactful and increase retention. That’s where true AR and VR make a lot of sense—digitizing training, streamlining the knowledge transfer from systems and records into the work environment, and transferring domain expertise from the more experienced workforce to create content for the junior workforce.


E: Are you using VR to train for dangerous situations that are hard to simulate in real life?

S: Yes, for electrical safety. We’ve got a project going on right now that takes an operator through a complex and highly hazardous electrical safety procedure, showing him the risks in a virtual but realistic way. Digitizing the outcomes of those high hazards and visualizing it to the end user really sticks when workers go out into the real-world environment.


E: Do you think you’ve found your killer application or are you still looking?

S: I don’t know if it’s quite one thing. A system that can do a couple of things would provide immense value. Something like smart eyewear that gives the user access to content during a repair and lets him or her pipe someone in from halfway around the world when encountering a problem. Something that alerts me, as a worker, to unknown energized equipment around me (a voltage sensing band) and also helps determine operationally why one workforce is being exposed to a danger while another doing the same task isn’t. Is it training or malfunctioning equipment?

When you have edge-to-edge systems that can protect the worker directly and push data from the worker and environment back to a system to intervene and do data analytics. Those are killer platforms and there are a few out there that we’re using right now.


E: What is the future of wearable technologies at GE and in EHS in general?

S: In the very near future the technology will mature and we’ll completely digitize the way risks are managed. I think everything is going to have ‘smart’ in front of it. I mean we even have smart safety shoes now, hazard vests, safety glasses, hard hats…Everything is being digitized. Workers will have a digital toolkit of wearables at their disposal as required PPE [personal protective equipment] as well as optional tools they’ll use to augment some of their work. As long as it doesn’t over-innovate the user and has data value, EHS in organizations could potentially get to zero quo (0 injuries and accidents).


E: What would be your advice to EHS managers in smaller organizations just beginning to look at different emerging technologies like wearables?

S: The great thing about coming in new today is there is so much that has already been done for you to leverage. It’s important to start with the problem: What are your critical injury categories at a site, regional and organizational level and then connect the dots to technology solutions. With any new idea, there will probably be someone out there working on it who may have a solution in place, so don’t be afraid to partner externally. In sum, have a plan: work from your problem statement first; leverage what’s been done in the past; and ensure you are able quantify the impact of new technology through existing and new data insights.

 

The 5th Annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2018, the leading event for enterprise wearables, will take place October 9-10, 2018 at The Fairmont in Austin, TX. EWTS is where enterprises go to innovate with the latest in wearable tech, including heads-up displays, AR/VR/MR, body- and wrist-worn devices, and even exoskeletons. For details, early confirmed speakers and preliminary agenda, please stay tuned to the conference website.


Augmented World Expo (AWE), the world’s #1 AR+VR conference and expo, comes to Munich, Germany on October 18-19, 2018. CXOs, designers, developers, futurists, analysts, investors and top press will gather at the MOC Exhibition Center to learn, inspire, partner and experience first-hand the most exciting industry of our times. Apply to exhibit, submit a talk proposal and buy Super Early Bird tickets now at www.aweeu.com.

 

Image Source: Seeking Alpha

Setting Up An Inventory System Is As Easy As 1-2-3…4

Written by Special Guest Bloggers Robert Seward and Steven Lewis, Co-Founders at Rendered Perception

 

Computer Vision (CV) and Augmented Reality (AR) coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will create that step change for inventory improvement that you are looking for. A good inventory system is a byproduct of having a deep understanding of your customer. Through our years of experience, that means you must be relentless about delivering a great customer experience. If you truly understand your customers’ jobs to be done, you will innovate and hire the correct product. More importantly, it is about progress not just a static product or service. There are plenty of off-the-shelf inventory management platforms for purchase but creating the best-in-class experience cannot be pulled from the shelf. When building an end-to-end inventory system, it should be set up in a way to collect insights, learn, teach, predict and understand customer circumstances. We will describe how setting up an inventory system is as easy as 1-2-3…4.


Step 1. Pain points: Understanding Customer Friction

First, you must dig into all the pain points, rationalizing customer friction points. In creating any solution, we first fall in love with the problem. We employ a 5-D method: Discovery, Define, Design, Develop and then Deliver. Whether you have been in the distribution business for years or are looking to increase your value proposition by adding warehousing to your transportation outfit, pain points exist. Inventory is a function of storage and flow.

Pain points on the flow could be as simple as needing better coordination with your vendors on the receiving side.  Implementing something as simple as advanced ship notice (ASN) provides visibility to the transported inventory. Couple ASN with the product type and engineering standards provides earned hours for scheduling within a workforce management system. It is common to use inventory buffers against the variability associated with customer demand. It is critical to know what you have, where you have it, where you are going to need it and how you will provide it.  Yesterday, you needed inventory correct at your edge node (local unit). Today, you need inventory visibility across the enterprise in real-time to accommodate the different purchase channels as well as provide vendors visibility to collaborate. Even outside the normal business, when a weather event like a hurricane happens, it is critical for inventory precision. Having the ability to create a pop-up retail unit, dynamically shifting inventory to the nodes that matter, is a competitive advantage and delivers tremendous value to customers that need it the most.


Step 2. People Focus: Simplify Tasks and Activities

Inventory systems can be cumbersome, frustrating and complex.  We have known operators within the business that have a successful track record garner more influence on how the inventory flow and processes should work. The challenge can be having a holistic viewpoint of the pain points and job to be done. The operator has tremendous domain knowledge of the business and expects everyone to have that level of experience and execution. Reality is the system should be designed to the lowest common denominator. You cannot assume much of the workforce will be able to execute a system designed by and for an expert operator. The balance is how do you leverage the person with operational expertise with professionals in the inventory space and a sprinkling of tasteful automation.

If you get this wrong, you spend good money and time, yet employees end up fighting with the systems and the inventory is not correct. The natural inclination is to automate everything and hope the problem will go away.  There is no shortage of use cases that people can speak to that would make their professional lives easier. The challenge with that is automation requires very complex calculations, multiple streams of data and backend processes. You do not want to automate bad behavior. The cost to automate something that changes frequently is a waste of capital. Before automation, you should have very solid controls as a foundation when creating business requirements. People that design the processes have great intentions but cannot aggregate the complexities thus creating a mess. There are several case studies that illustrate the importance of identifying the right systems to automate versus enhanced workforce. There is a sweet spot on the automation curve that leverages labor expenses intelligently versus spending capital on automation.

Fun Math

If your inventory system is only 60% accurate, what is the math of your secondary systems and how accurate are they? If they are not perfect, you start to talk about fractions of fractions and your system collapses. Where you want to start your calculus is with a near 100% for your foundation (which is Inventory by the way people!), and then your fractions can start from there, preferably 99% or 100%’s all the way down so that it runs smooth. If your foundation is secure and running great, your secondary systems will take care of themselves so that you can focus your support and attention to more important things… like the customer.

Example: You order an item online and you don’t get it. Does the problem end there? The company has a 95% ship rate. If the customer did not get it, where is it? Where was the real-time alert identifying a break in the supply chain? Proactive versus reactive. Find and fix the problem before the customer realizes anything less than superior service has occurred. If there is a problem in the supply chain that cannot be addressed in a timely manner, the customer should be updated and informed before unpleasantly surprised.


Step 3. Process Focus: Standardize and Streamline Routines

You have heard the expression, “what gets measured, gets done.” Companies understand the value of simplifying, standardizing and optimizing processes. Creating routines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) aligns large-scale labor forces. The challenge is not in the set-up of engineering standards, working data sheets and frequency studies. The challenge is in the delivery of the training material!  No one appreciates the series of 4-inch binders containing outdated instructions on how to perform a task. Maintaining the binder content has evolved to basic interactive training videos. Would it not be easier to use Augmented Reality (AR) to do the training while the employee is performing the task? We have seen training that normally takes several weeks down to a few hours.

Once you have an AR-assisted solution available to help employees complete the task, you need to have a follow-up mechanism. Yesterday and today, you would have a small team of auditors or managers audit a sample of tasks. Does that audit team need to exist tomorrow? Could you build AR tools performing system-assisted inspection? You still need to inspect what you expect. Instead of auditing a person, you would be validating the results… a modern version of trust but verify.

Building an AR-assisted solution will not happen overnight. Good news, though, is you get notable incremental benefits along the way. Most approaches today start with taking existing systems to mobile. Then from mobile to head-mounted displays. Lastly, head-mounted displays to basic AR. We believe in starting with basic AR and rapidly iterating to more value-added AR. A 3-year roadmap could look like the following:


Step 4. Platform Build: Innovation, Automation and Analytics

Building the platform is the fun part. Integration is simply a function of inputs, outputs and transformations. Most people see and judge a solution on the merit of interface. The secret is not in the interface, it is in the data capture. Identifying the source(s) of data, building real-time systems to ingest the data and build a system to intelligently understand and then apply the data are some of the most important parts. This is not sexy but pays tremendous dividends. Please note we did not get this right the very first attempt. What kept us on track is we had a motto for when we reviewed our “final” solution design– Hate your design, continue forward and iterate tomorrow. We did a 3-month proof of concept that we could have easily spent a year on, but we would not have gotten through all our test-fail-learn cycles.

The diagram listed below is an oversimplification to the actual architecture design. A few notable jobs to be done based on our experience:

  • Capture lost sales opportunities – what, when, where, why, how
  • Workforce planning – based on routines, SOPs, engineering standards and dynamic tasks
  • Connectivity throughout the supply chain – anchored in the retail unit and worked upstream and downstream
  • Predictive insights – decision options, consequences, pros, cons

Streamlining everyday tasks, performing wildly complex computations, and having a personal assistant to talk AND walk you through exceptions should be a staple. There is a lot of work that goes into building out the technology stack, software configuration and use case prioritization.


Closing

The business should be made as simple as possible. We have built algorithms to create calculations to redesign direct labor out of the system as well as add capacity and increase accuracy. As part of the journey, we built backend processes to remove non-value-added time associated with set-up and wayfinding. In the end, we have always maintained the customer vantage point.

Inventory management powered by CV, AR and IoT creates an intelligent inventory solution. AR technology is here and unlocks a wealth of value added opportunity. If you truly understand your customers’ job to be done, you will innovate and hire the correct product. We fall in love with the problem. If you strive for the best-in-class customer experience, building an inventory system really is as simple as 1-2-3…4.

 

If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn:

If you happen to be attending the following AR conferences, stop by and chat:

3 Things You Should do When Preparing Your Organization for Enterprise Wearables

Last week, Chris Croteau, General Manager of Head-worn Devices at Intel, and Jay Kim, Chief Strategy Officer of Upskill (formerly APX Labs), shared a lot of juicy information in the webinar “What’s Next: Preparing Your Organization for Enterprise Wearables.” Here are three takeaways:

  1. Know where you’re coming from to get to where you’re going

Chris and Jay kicked off the webinar by reflecting upon Industry 3.0, the first phase of digitizing the industrial base in which we began the transition from manual-based records to digital ones. Data was incorporated into systems, which allowed for tracking and analytics but also created “islands of information” and “disparate systems”—challenges that wearables and AR interfaces address.

To understand the promise and opportunities for wearable technology in your business, it’s necessary to understand the challenges that came out of the revolution that preceded the one we are witnessing today. Wearables are incorporating human beings – the industrial workforce – into this next wave, transforming how workers interact with information from those systems of record in real time via a medium or form factor that doesn’t cause disruptions.

  1. Start with structured information within your current systems of record

Your current systems of record (ERPs like MES, WMS, FSM, PLM, KMS, etc.) are a great place to start. Your workers are already accessing the information stored within those systems, just most likely not in a convenient or real-time manner. Deliver the same information (corresponding to existing workflows and processes) in a new medium like Recon Jet Pro smart glasses.

To do this, you’ll need software like Upskill’s Skylight platform, which provides the “connective tissue” between the systems of record enterprises already use and the next evolution in workforce enablement and management. Not all data, however, is created equal.

SORs contain different types of information, some structured (like the information stored in a WMS) and some unstructured (ex. diagrams, PDFs.) Structured information is best suited to be delivered to your workforce today via smart glasses, while PDFs would have to be restructured to be made consumable through wearable tech. New data captured by smart glass technology in the field can be integrated into the SOR, as well.

  1. Take a layered approach to security

According to Jay, security is one of the most frequently-cited reasons why a wearable pilot doesn’t transition into meaningful deployment for an organization. But it is a mistake, he said, to focus just on the devices and operating systems; the right course is to take a more holistic approach to securing wearables.

Multiple layers of security must be present:

  • The devices have to be secured from a physical perspective, of course
  • The OS and application running on the device must be secured (and the user should be limited in what he or she can do/access with the technology)
  • The network, integration layer connecting the technology to your existing systems of record, and your IT infrastructure—all have to be secured.

There’s hope, though! As Chris recalled, just a few years ago standard mobile device management tools did not cover smart glasses and other wearables, but now a number of solutions do support wearable devices. And as the demand and pressure to use wearable tech in the enterprise increases, management solutions and protocols will be adapted, just as they were for mobile phones.

Watch the full webinar – available on demand – now, and catch Chris and Upskill’s Brian Ballard at EWTS next month.

 

About EWTS 2017:

The Spring Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place May 10-12, 2017 in San Diego, California is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. 

Upright’s Pilot Studies Demonstrate how Wearables Increase Office Worker Productivity

Written by Special Guest Blogger Thomas Dawidczyk, Analyst, Lux Research

What They Said

Upright partnered with Ernst & Young Israel to study the link between posture and productivity. The study used Upright’s adhesive posture monitoring wearable that incorporates haptic feedback to improve posture and alleviate lower back pain. After a few weeks using Upright’s device, 75% of the 31 Ernst & Young employees in the study experienced improved posture and decreased back pain. Over half of the participants felt more alert and productive at work due to their improved posture. Additionally, 85% of participants became more aware of their posture and 71% of participants felt more confident when they had good posture. Employees were surveyed about the effects of using Upright on back pain, productivity, and posture throughout the survey. To improve posture, the employees trained two to four times a week for six weeks starting out with just five minutes a day. They used Upright while sitting at their desk, eating lunch, or attending a meeting.

What We Think

Upright has performed other case studies with SAP Software Solutions and Siemens. In all cases, these companies have a large percentage of their workforce that sits in front of computers for a majority of the day and while these results are promising, the solutions are generally not adopted long-term. This adoption problem is not unique to Upright and plagues most wearable devices. One way to achieve sustained adoption may require offering virtual rewards or introducing a gamification.

Preventative and proactive approaches to workplace safety can come in different form factors (see the report “A Sensor a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: How Digital Technology is Keeping Workers Safe”). Employers continue to look to improve on traditional safety protocols, and some have already started to realize the potential of digital solutions, but many are hesitant to buy in due to the implementation cost, worker privacy concerns, and complexity of integration with existing processes. As clinicians and doctors continue to see some benefit to wearables, adoption and retention will continue to increase. The average direct cost of a back injury stands at $45,000, and indirect costs associated with loss of productivity, injury investigation, and training of new workers, for example, can amount to $90,000. So as companies become accustomed to wearables in the workplace, look at greater adoption of posture sensors, especially as companies see the added benefits of productivity gains.

 

Thomas Dawidczyk is an Analyst that leads the Wearables Intelligence service at Lux Research.  Lux Research provides strategic advice and ongoing intelligence for emerging technologies. Leaders in business, finance and government rely on Lux to help them make informed strategic decisions. Through their unique research approach focused on primary research and their extensive global network, they deliver insight, connections and competitive advantage to their clients.

 

About EWTS 2017:

The 3rd annual Enterprise Wearable Technology Summit 2017 taking place May 10-12, 2017 in San Diego, California is the leading event for wearable technology in enterprise. It is also the only true enterprise event in the wearables space, with the speakers and audience members hailing from top enterprise organizations across the industry spectrum. Consisting of real-world case studies, engaging workshops, and expert-led panel discussions on such topics as enterprise applications for Augmented and Virtual Reality, head-mounted displays, and body-worn devices, plus key challenges, best practices, and more; EWTS is the best opportunity for you to hear and learn from those organizations who have successfully utilized wearables in their operations. 

Join the Enterprise Wearable Technology Community (LinkedIn Group)