September 1, 2015
It seems as if new examples of wearable technology in the enterprise come to light every week now. In this post, we will take a look at three use cases, one each from the retail, logistics and automotive industries.
The Dawsons example is a testament to the game-changing potential of wearable tech in business, especially when it comes to customer service. Dawsons is a British musical instrument retailer that is utilizing smart glasses (plus AI technology) to revolutionize the online shopping experience.
When a customer clicks Chat on Dawsons’ “online shop,” he is no longer connected to an anonymous, text-based support person but rather he is able to communicate with an in-store specialist wearing a pair of Epson smart glasses. In this case, the smart glasses act as the remote eyes and ears of the potential buyer.
Say you’re considering purchasing a guitar. While browsing online, you could ask the Dawsons in-store specialist to try out a few instruments for you. You would be able to see and hear whatever the smart glasses-clad sales associate does in the physical store; and you would be able to talk to him and ask questions, all thanks to a one-way video link with two-way audio.
This truly novel take on online shopping was provided by UK startup GoInStore. Typically for Dawsons, online conversions are 1/10 of in-store rates; but wearable tech has improved the online rates dramatically, along with improving customer satisfaction, increasing the average order value, and reducing return stats.
This kind of wearable tech program is great in retail scenarios requiring a consultative or “high touch” sale between staff and customer. Buying a guitar is one such scenario—a very considered purchase, in which most customers would prefer testing out the instrument and talking with a specialist in a physical store to shopping online. Dawsons’ use of smart glasses provides a very practical digital link between store and web, providing an immersive online experience that nearly replicates the in-store one.
Other major retailers should take note, for smart glasses may very well finally deliver the perfect balance between the confidence of a real human-to-human sales interaction and the ease of purchasing with a click of the mouse.
Exel / DHL
Exel, the freight forwarding arm of Deutsche Post DHL’s supply chain management business, is apparently following in the footsteps of its parent company in preparing to test “vision picking” with smart glasses to boost productivity in two of its U.S. warehouses.
Earlier this year, DHL deployed smart glasses in a distribution warehouse in the Netherlands. In that wearable tech pilot program, warehouse workers processed orders by scanning barcodes with their glasses instead of using hand-held barcode scanners. Instructions were relayed via the wearable devices, eliminating the need for paper invoices and even telling workers the fastest route to find products and how to arrange orders precisely.
Warehouses can be complex environments, but Exel is betting on wearable technology to simplify matters somewhat, especially for the thousands of temporary workers the company hires during periods of peak activity. It won’t matter that these temps are unfamiliar with the particular warehouse, because smart glasses will tell them what to do and where to go. And of course, we’ve seen before how wearable tech can be applied for training purposes..
Exel is undoubtedly hoping for the same results as those of the forerunning Dutch scheme, in which smart glass technology reduced the time needed to pick and pack an item by 25%. In the Exel case, the smart glasses will be outfitted with the company’s warehouse management software, which is how the technology will help workers navigate so precisely and efficiently on the warehouse floor.
At this point, it may seem like smart glasses will never be a hit with consumers, but enterprises that have warehouses and factories are closely eyeing the technology and even adopting in many cases (DHL, ahem). A test program still underway at Daimler as of June (when it was mentioned in a WSJ article) reveals how Google Glass and the like can boost productivity by reducing – and even eliminating – the need for manuals and printed instructions along with reducing production errors and the number of steps required to complete tasks.
Daimler is using Vuzix smart glasses plus quality assurance software by Ubimax for quality control inspections on its assembly lines. Workers checking for defects on vehicles moving down the assembly line need no longer memorize checklists or rely on paper instructions; and they don’t need to file reports on computers away from the assembly line once they’ve completed their inspections, because now they’re wearing smart glasses.
With smart glass technology, Daimler assembly line workers are able to view checklists during inspections, greatly diminishing the possibility of missing an item. And upon discovering a defect, they can immediately and rather effortlessly make a voice-recorded report without leaving their station, as well as photograph the problem and forward the information to other workers responsible for correcting the error–a much more precise method of handling the issue.
Daimler hinted that it may test smart glasses in other areas of assembly work in addition to quality control in the future.