An interesting challenge sometimes overlooked when considering Industry 4.0 strategies is the physical interface between the increasingly clever technology and the ever more demanding humans interacting with it.
Not so long ago the most common way of following technical operating or build procedures was with printed paper and lots of it. Of course, this been surpassed by modern ‘paperless’ systems that are tidier, more convenient and kinder to trees. In a manufacturing environment, it poses a few questions though. Do you have a fixed display at each workstation or a mobile tablet? If it’s a tablet, should it be one per workstation or one per person? Will the screen be big enough? How do we stop people installing Candy Crush on it?
When Google Glass launched around 2013, it seemed it might provide the answer. It provided something that could give operators all the relevant information literally right before their eyes. Unfortunately, concerns over privacy (due to the built-in camera) and price (around $1500) meant it failed to take off as the next consumer must-have, and all too soon it disappeared. Or so we thought.
To borrow from Mark Twain, it seems reports of its death are an exaggeration. Terri Hiskey, in this article for Zenoot, explains how Google Glass could be making a comeback alongside a supporting software ecosystem. It might not have the vintage appeal of vinyl records, Nokia phones or retro games consoles, but it could be a welcome and valuable return.
Advanced manufacturing is driving the need for increased connectivity and ever more sophisticated data-gathering and analytics capabilities. With a new technology ecosystem emerging, Glass may have finally found its home, and last month we heard news that industrial companies, such as General Motors, GE Aviation, Boeing and Volkswagen, have all been using the smart glasses to help workers perform complex manual tasks.
Some of the key benefits highlighted by these companies is that the device can increase the efficiency of technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance and production line roles. For example, Glass can show step-by step instructions, help workers to choose the right tools, and photograph, record and report quality problems.