Electronic Products & Technology

Integrating wearable technologies to increase productivity

EP&T Magazine   

Electronics Engineering Electronics

Wearable technology enthusiasts will often share their vision of the future which usually includes the weaving of technology into everyday life through the use of interactive glasses or James Bond inspired wrist watches. But so far, cost and size, coupled with the challenges of making the interaction with wearable devices intuitive has limited the growth of these products. If Vandrico has its way, all of this is going to change, and change fast.

The decreasing cost of processing power and other components is encouraging widespread adoption and availability of wearable tech, opening the door to innovation. According to ABI Research, due to the relative ease of compatibility with smartphones and other electronic devices, the wearable technologies market will spike to 485 million annual device shipments by 2018. Vandrico hopes that it can integrate a number of these devices for industrial clients, by identifying the right technology and delivering cost-effective solutions to empower industrial workforces. I recently had the opportunity to meet Vandrico’s CEO, Gonzalo Tudela, to hear his thoughts on this growing industry.

Q: Why should wearable technologies such as Google Glass interest OEMs?

“The advancement of technology will boost overall economic productivity. We are currently in a technological era and wearables are the next steps for mobile computing. An improvement in this technology will improve the productive output per labour hour.” explains Tudela. “Think of the first brick cell phone and what it did for communication. Then, they made it smaller and everyone joined in. Then they come up with the smartphone, and made that smaller and faster. Business thrived off it’s abilities. Now, it’s Google Glass. Wearables, in our opinion, are the future.”

Q: What is going to keep Vandrico at the forefront of the wearable technologies industry?

“Vandrico is focused on the workplace use-case”, explains Tudela, “to help determine where in the workforce wearables can generate a return on investment. Part of our team’s job is to know what is going on in the sector at all times. So, we created and published a continuously growing database of wearable devices for clients to choose from.” Although Vandrico received a lot of press for working with Google on integrating their Google Glass product, Tudela is quick to mention that they are device agnostic, focused on using the best device for a given situation. Vandrico looks at the step-by-step interactions between a worker and their organization’s systems and processes that are used to help them achieve their goals. “We serve larger industrial companies and we partner with ERP and hardware solutions so everyone can focus on what they do best. Our focus is on the delivery of information and integration into existing systems.”

Q: What is Vandrico’s niche?

“Vandrico’s niche is the industrial workplace. Our belief is that the medical industry is the next immediate beneficiary of wearables and will be early adopters in the near-term. This means that it’s going to be a very competitive market. So, we are focused on the industrial workplace,” says Tudela. “As a team, we ask ourselves, how can smart watches and heads up displays help a company be safer and more productive? Critical notifications and alerts are great. We built a software platform that integrates into existing ERP systems.”

Tudela explains a critical event scenario at a mine where a tooth in a shovel breaks. If this broken reinforced steel tooth reaches the crusher, a large industrialized piece of machinery designed to crush rocks, a company can expect up to 36 hours of downtown and incur $10M in expenses. “That’s not a good thing,” explains Tudela. “We have identified that the existing systems are catching these events with great accuracy, but the workers are not receiving the information. When a tooth ends up in the payload and reaches the crusher, it causes a problem. The focus of our technology is to ensure workers receive the relevant information so that these capital intensive accidents can be avoided.”

Q: So how does Vandrico integrate with ERP systems to deliver these capabilities?

“For example, we are working with Motion Metrics (www.motionmetrics.com), who use cameras to detect when a tooth breaks off of a shovel, among other things that are critical to payload management.” Tudela adds, “Their system can alert the appropriate truck operator, who has a tooth in his payload, so that he or she can take appropriate measures to ensure that it’s payload is not dropped off at the conveyor.” The value of this cannot be understated. The system is catching the issue, but the workers are not seeing it for a variety of reasons. An operator in control of a large mining shovel has upwards of 12 different monitors in their cab.

There are multiple screens to consider and information overload can occur. Also consider the sights and sounds of a large operating mine site. A site supervisor is consistently occupied as running a mine is akin to managing a small city. For real time issues, one must rely on workers at the ground level. “The noise levels on a site are extremely loud. The ground is shaking and a shovel operator has a variety of monitors in their cab to worry about,” explains Tudela. “Sometimes critical event details can be missed and windows of opportunity close quickly when production output is a key benchmark to a mine’s performance. But it is impossible to ignore an alert on your safety glasses, where it is directly in your field of vision. Where we come in is we bring that critical information to the relevant workers through the use of head mounted displays or smart watches, instantaneously, in a manner in which they cannot ignore.”

Q: How can EP&T’s readership benefit from knowing more about Vandrico and wearable technologies?

“We are a tech company helping industrial clients save money,” says Tudela. “The future of wearable technologies in the workplace will be based on its ability to help a user or professional make timely decisions.” Knowing what is on the horizon in the wearable device industry can help us prepare for a fundamental shift in how we bring information to workers. “Every machine has analytics,” says Tudela, “the problem is analysis paralysis. What we do is bring relevant information to the appropriate worker, which saves time and money for end users, and we want to make sure that we’re using the best devices suited for this job.”


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