‘Google Glass’, a small, lightweight wearable computer with a transparent display bringing information into the wearer’s line of sight released in 2013–2014, faded from public view quite rapidly after privacy concerns were raised.
The team behind the product went away and realised that they had been pitching Google Glass to the wrong people – Joe Public may have had little need for the gadget, but the logistics and manufacturing industries, and many others, have a real use for such wearables.
It’s now back, with a new name, ‘Glass Enterprise Edition’, and a list of industry partners that have helped in its two-year redevelopment phase.
Product Lead, Jay Kothari, shared in a blog post that one of the first companies to benefit from the application of the technology in an industrial setting was an aeroplane assembly plant.
“Back in 2014, my team was at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio, watching how mechanics assemble and repair airplane engines,” he said. “Airplane maintenance is a complex and specialised task, and any errors can lead to expensive delays or having to conduct the entire maintenance process all over again. The mechanics moved carefully, putting down tools and climbing up and down ladders to consult paper instructions in between steps.
“GE’s mechanics now use Glass running software from our partner Upskill, which shows them instructions with videos, animations and images right in their line of sight so they don’t have to stop work to check their binders or computer to know what to do next…They estimate that they have not only reduced errors at key points in the assembly and overhaul of engines, but that they have improved their mechanics’ efficiency by between 8–12 per cent.”
Now, more than 50 businesses use Glass, including agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO, global logistics provider DHL, aeroplane producer The Boeing Company and automotive company Volkswagen.
In a work setting, the computer can be clipped onto glasses or industry frames such as safety goggles, so the wearer does not need to have to switch focus between what he or she is doing with their hands and the content they need to see to do their job.
“Workers in many fields, like manufacturing, logistics, field services, and healthcare find it useful to consult a wearable device for information and other resources while their hands are busy,” said Kothari. “That’s why we’ve spent the last two years working closely with a network of more than 30 expert partners to build customized software and business solutions for Glass for people in these fields. We’ve also made improvements to the design and hardware so that it’s lightweight and comfortable for long-term wear. We’ve increased the power and battery life too.”
DHL has used the product to support its ‘order picking’ supply chain process, where orders are fulfilled by scanning items from racks before moving them into totes or bins on carts to be shipped. Using Glass with Ubimax, the company’s employees now receive real-time instructions about where items have to be placed on the carts with the help of visual aids, a process change that DHL estimates has increased supply chain efficiency by 15 per cent.
Picavi, a company providing pick-by-vision solutions, is specifically aimed at the intralogistics industry and has been partnered with Glass since the beginning.
“Glass Enterprise Edition has long since proven its suitability for the logistics sector,” said Dirk Franke, CEO, Picavi. “It has gone a long way toward establishing pick-by-vision as one of the leading order-picking technologies.”
Pharmaceuticals company Klosterfrau Berlin has been using the Glass along with Picavi over the trial period.
“We have achieved time savings of up to 30 per cent, while increasing safety levels,” said Andreas Paul, Logistics Manager, Klosterfrau.
Glass Enterprise Edition is not the only pick-by-vision device on the market today, it will be interesting to watch and see how it establishes itself inn an already developing market.