PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has developed immensely in the last couple of years. With technological advancements and industrial innovation, what used to be a simple functional piece of equipment has now been transformed into a multi-functional wearable with various features and components. In this way, smart glasses are becoming an integral part of PPE thanks to their numerous advantages, next to enhancing existing safety functions. Not only do they protect the wearers’ eyes, but they also inform him how to do the job, thus protecting him from possible errors and risks. It is no wonder that more and more companies and industries are seeing the winning potential of smart safety glasses.
Smart PPE: from hype to reality
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the term used for protective gear (clothing, helmets, glasses, or other garments or equipment) designed with the aim to protect the wearer in dangerous working environments. Digital innovation forces operational and industrial settings to improve, enhance, and facilitate everyday work, next to the primary goal of safety and protection. Challenges include increasing the worker’s efficiency and productivity levels while decreasing the number of human errors. With this in mind, traditional PPE has been advanced with cameras, microphones, sensors, and other built-in intelligent features to assist frontline workers while working. Moreover, PPE is being designed in such a way that innovation and technology become an integral part of it. What used to be a single functional piece of ruggedized protective equipment, is transformed into digitally enhanced protective gear designed to deliver another layer of knowledge and information. What used to be a hype, is now a reality.
Industrial Smart safety glasses: informed protection
Besides acting as a barrier between the wearer and the working environment, smart safety glasses can add another layer of insight, knowledge, and information to the situation. What used to be a single piece of protective equipment, has transformed into a multifunctional device with multiple advantages. It is clear that with digital innovation within the wearable tech industry, another dimension of shared knowledge and connectivity is added next to the main purpose of safety and protection.
A significant disruptive solution in smart PPE glasses innovation is supporting working handsfree. Manual processes and paper-based workflows were the norms of PPE-based work settings of the past and smart glasses enabled working entirely handsfree, resulting in the rise of smart eyewear that not only protects the eye area but also serves as a multi-functional smart technological device.
While most smart PPE is reactive, smart safety glasses are mostly interactive, making it possible for the wearer to interact and communicate with a person not present in the current work setting via wifi or 4G connection. Via the camera and optical zoom, the distant person, often an expert, can precisely see what the wearer is seeing in detail. This ‘see-what-I-see’ technology is highly comparable to video calling or video conferencing. Instead of sending out a specialist technician to do the maintenance on a windmill, for instance, a less experienced technician can go on-site wearing the glasses while the specialist dials in. The smart glasses enable the specialist to provide on demand assistance from the comfort of his office as he sees exactly what the onsite technician sees.
Special work instruction software makes it possible to show step-by-step instructions on the display of the smart glasses, in order to guide the wearer in complex maintenance or technical problems. The operator stays protected and focused on the job and keeps both hands free to execute work in a safe way.
Faster training of young technicians
Smart safety glasses do not only protect the operator (as the good old safety glasses do), but they can play an important role in training and work satisfaction. Smart glasses enable the gathering of experience and data that can be turned into instructional videos, for example, which are then uploaded to wearables. It’s efficient and, for many, an enjoyable way to transfer knowledge. This use is paying off in terms of efficiency, productivity, and cost, on top of the intended safety.
AGCO for instance, a manufacturer of agriculture equipment based in Georgia, also experienced a significant decrease in the time it took for employees to learn new skills. The company recently implemented the use of smart glasses at some of its facilities. The first test results were remarkable, with a reduction of 50% in the learning-curve duration. Next to training time, defects have also been reduced by 50% during this period.
Noticeably, the purpose of the training was not the first intention of adopting PPE smart glasses for AGCO. While their main objective was to assist in quality and assembly controls, the training component quickly became more prominent with the glasses’ ease and other beneficial aspects. Stronger, as workers on the field by default wear gloves, helmets, and ear protection, smart glasses have become an integral part of their uniform, empowering them with knowledge and assistance they would not have access to.
Smart safety glasses in the Covid19 age
In the age of Covid19, smart safety glasses provided a solution to a number of challenges. In this way, for instance, their use had risen significantly during surgeries as an answer to the low stock of medical PPE supplies. Thanks to the remote assistance technology, the presence of external consultants, who often assist operating surgeons with additional advice on medical device placements, was no longer required. External consultants or medical sales reps could easily follow the surgery via wifi or 4G connection, from the comfort of their homes. An additional advantage was the minimal medical crew being present in the operating room, enforcing social distancing.
But not only in medical contexts smart safety glasses ensured safety combined with social distancing. The maintenance, operational, manufacturing, and other industrial sites all experienced the full potential of smart PPE glasses during Covid19, slowly adopting this technology into their everyday work life. The imposed travel restrictions got bypassed as experts could offer live remote assistance to their technical colleagues on site.
As digital transformation across industries is prevalent, the adoption of smart safety glasses is becoming omnipresent in industrial and non-industrial work settings. As the core is to provide the best possible protection in hazardous work environments, working handsfree assisted by voice commands is a big plus, next to the additional data and information gathering and registering for more in-depth business insight. As the wearable technology industry constantly evolves and advances, it is no surprise the smart safety glasses is no longer a trend and will become a standard element of the PPE uniform.