Superheroes of Industry Eye Wearable Tech

Dec. 12, 2014
Smart watches take mobility to the next level, shrinking a machine interface down to the size of a tea bag. Industrial applications for wearable tech are starting to emerge, and the possibilities are intriguing for plant managers, engineers and technicians.

In industrial plants, “wearable tech” tends to take the form of personal protective equipment (PPE). Carefully designed, protective, and sophisticated in its own way, PPE is worn to minimize exposure to serious workplace hazards. But the consumer version of wearable tech is what has captured the imaginations of many, and it beginning to make its industrial debut.

Mass-market wearable tech encompasses bracelets, watches, glasses and other smart devices that sense what they are connected to or pointed at, and can connect to the Cloud to send or receive data. Fitness bands that measure your heart rate and Google Glass eyeglasses are two examples.

At both the International Machine Tool Show and PackExpo this year, Beckhoff Automation provided an industrial proof of concept, showing Google glasses attached to a machine interface application running off its PC-based computing platform. System integrator Novotek has combined GE’s Proficy Workflow software with Google Glass for hands-free, expert guidance through process steps. Google Glass also is being used today in the oil and gas industry to enable maintenance technicians to get immediate access to information to know exactly what to do with a malfunctioning valve or pump in the field.

Now, the smart watches have arrived. With a turn of their wrist, engineers, plant managers and others have access to data about the machine they’re standing next to—or not. Smart watches take mobility to the next level, shrinking a machine interface down to the size of a tea bag. And useful industrial connections have already been made.

Schneider Electric has released Wonderware SmartGlance 2014 R2. This mobile reporting software “includes features that make monitoring, visualizing and analyzing real-time plant and industrial process data via mobile devices easier than ever,” said Saadi Kermani, Wonderware SmartGlance product manager. In addition to support for wearable tech like smart watches, features include a modern user interface for any browser, self-serve registration, support for multiple time zones for a global user base and full import and export capabilities for even faster deployment.

“Plant personnel are now mobile so they require immediate access to real-time operations information via their smartphone, tablet or whatever mobile device they carry,” said Kermani. “Wonderware SmartGlance 2014 R2 software delivers highly relevant information coming from industrial data sources to targeted plant workers in the form of personalized charts, reports and alerts. It provides them with the flexibility they need to view and instantly collaborate around real-time plant data on any device.”

MyAlerts, the SmartGlance software’s newest mobile app feature, proactively notifies users of process events. It features an open interface to connect and push data to mobile devices from virtually any data source.

And in case you’re wondering what might be next, Wired Magazine recently reported that “the smart ring is designed to take up even less space on your body than say, a bracelet or a watch, while still providing interactive notifications. These rings will alert wearers to new text messages, emails, calendar events, and incoming calls. They’ll even deliver social networking notifications and can be set to different vibration patterns depending on who’s trying to contact you.”

Wearable tech like that may be the ultimate PPE, turning plant managers, engineers and techs into Green Lanterns—industrial superheroes with powers beyond imagining.

Be sure to use your power for good, my friends.

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