Dear Colleagues,

You've probably heard of Google Glasses which displays text messages right next to your eyes. There are a range of wearable devices offering all sorts of features on the market. These include wearable devices that measure heart rates, how many calories we are burning or how many steps we have walked.

Now this is moving into the brutal world of work where there are huge opportunities to apply these nifty technologies to your job or indeed next engineering design to improve performance. And this ranges all the way from a tradesman working on a building site to the engineering manager considering a remarkable new design.

There is One Major Risk with Wearable Devices
Absolutely no one wants to feel that “Big Brother’ is watching their every move. Especially when they are engaged in creative work and often stressful work situations. So anyone who believes that they are able to improve productivity by forcing people to wear devices to monitor their every movement and activity is probably going to be massively disappointed with a drop in performance and some discontent.

Interesting Applications of Wearable Devices
There is a vast range of opportunities to apply wearable devices from improving the performance of football teams with wearable devices monitoring their physical exertion to offices where employees are advised on their level of engagement with others or their level of stress to warehouse crews wearing talking glasses keeping them informed about the progress of a task.

These are briefly discussed below.

Office Activities
A wearable device monitors employees’ interactions with others and gives a map of their level of interaction and stress levels. People who have minimal interaction can be identified and counselled if interaction is a key part of their job.  This device has sensors that monitor movement/speaking/light/temperature and location. For example, in a one hour brain storming session it may indicate someone with a low energy level who is not contributing much to the meeting.

Running a Factory
Smart glasses now have a high definition camera built into them allowing immediate scanning of codes. Built in audio gives the worker immediate feedback on any problems on the job. And guidance in undertaking some difficult task in calibrating an instrument or rewiring a switchboard.

Football Teams
One of the most interesting (and robust) application of wearable devices is one which contains a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer to measure a football players’ acceleration, maximum speed, change of direction and overall distance covered. The fatigue of the players can be assessed and injury avoided. All in real time.
Just bear in mind with all these exciting technologies that they have to be simple (and follow the KISS principle) and economically viable.

Thanks to the New York Times for an interesting article on the issue of Wearable Gadgets.

Many of these devices are difficult to imagine in the real world; but as Frank Lloyd Wright remarked: The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve