The evolution and future of wearable devices

Let’s go back to 1997. It’s a historic year for the tech industry: new social media platforms emerge, DVD rentals are taking shape and paving the way for video streaming, and the first version of the 802.11 Wi-Fi standards is released.

This was also the year Zebra launched its first wearable computer for warehouse workers to make it easier to register merchandise, access data, and collaborate with colleagues. Twenty-five years later, this wearable device – in an updated form of course – is still in use.

Made for work

When we first thought about the development of wearable devices, we knew that the business environment had special demands on technology. How can you hold the device in your hand continuously for eight hours or more while picking, packing or loading hundreds of items? In addition, employees in warehouses and production facilities constantly scan barcodes, display tasks and have to manually process objects. That’s why we’ve strived to create lightweight devices and accessories that can be carried and used throughout the day without getting your hands full. Our design team also considered the challenges posed by noisy, busy and often dark workplaces. Each year, it visited – and continues to do so today – many distribution centers, warehouses and production facilities in order to try the devices in practice and develop them accordingly.

Punishment? Hardware designed to be strong, durable, and reliable around the clock. Much can be used even at sub-zero temperatures. Advanced audio technology is integrated to ensure every call is heard. The buttons have been enlarged to make it easier to use. Screens are clear and bright to compensate for low-light conditions. Batteries are hot swappable and connection systems are convenient and easy to change to keep devices convenient and hygienic.

Keep up with the growing demand

In 2019, 62% of warehouse operators surveyed by Zebra said they plan to make wearable devices available to their employees by 2022. They also predicted that by 2024, three out of ten employees will use voice control. However, adoption is likely to be much higher than expected given how quickly e-commerce sales have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic and how much the on-demand economy is now affecting the supply chain and distribution systems. We all expect online orders to be delivered the same day or the next day, and more and more people are ordering individual items, putting more pressure on warehouse operators and shippers. This is where wearable devices can help as they allow the user to stay mobile and work instinctively. All-in-one laptops and portable accessories like barcode scanners, headphones, and head-mounted displays simplify everyday work. Staff picking items in the warehouse can be directed by voice commands (for example, to choose items on the best route), simply scan what they’re picking with the built-in or paired wearable scanner and hands-free items in the pick-up rack, basket or cart, which can then be transferred to the next station by an Autonomous Mobile Robot (AMR). This is much faster than scanning each item individually with a handheld device.

Paul Reed, EMEA Regional Product Manager, Zebra Technologies

Zudem ermöglichen Head-Mounted Displays – in Kombination mit Augmented Reality (AR) – den Nutzern, ihre Augen immer auf die anstehende Aufgabe zu richten, indem sie relevante Informationen zur richtigen Zeit in ihr Sichtfeld bringen. So können Mitarbeiter zur nächsten Entnahmestelle geleitet werden und sehen dort durch eine Markierung im Display das nächste Produkt, das sie entnehmen müssen, im Regal hervorgehoben. Dies verkürzt auch die Einarbeitungszeit für neue Mitarbeiter.

Mit einer Produktivitätssteigerung von bis zu 15 % und einer Genauigkeit von 99,8 % tragen Wearables und sprachgesteuerte Kommissionierung dazu bei, immer präziser und schneller auszuliefern.

Ein Blick in die Zukunft

Mit zunehmender Rechenleistung und neuen Anwendungen wie AR haben Wearables das Potenzial, kompakter zu werden, ohne dass dies zu Lasten des Volumens, der Geschwindigkeit oder der Anzeige kontextbezogener Informationen in Echtzeit geht. Tatsächlich werden kleinere, leistungsfähigere Wearables es Lagerarbeitern ermöglichen, bei steigenden Anforderungen mit größerer Effizienz, Effektivität und Produktivität zu arbeiten.

Wenn Sie mehr über die Wearables von Zebra erfahren möchten, klicken Sie hier.


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