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Wearable smart glasses help freight company think outside the box

Wearables find new footing in industries that need to keep hands free. One company explains how Intel's Recon Jet Pro smart glasses have improved its productivity.

Time is money, and time wasted is money lost. So, when efficiency stalled in a freight-forwarding company's warehouse, it turned to wearable smart glasses.

Workers at DB Schenker in Houston needed to streamline the time-consuming processes of tracking inventory and communicating with each other on the large warehouse floor. In April, the company introduced Intel's Recon Jet Pro smart glasses, which allow employees to work hands-free and keep inventory up to date.

"The glasses are easy to work with and easy to learn," said John Pappas, IT project manager at DB Schenker. "Instead of having to stop and flag a supervisor down, you can just send a message."

Wearable smart glasses help turn a corner

The Recon Jet Pro smart glasses have a camera below the right eye, so as not to disrupt the worker's view. The camera allows the worker to stream live video for support purposes -- such as a step-by-step walk-through on how to fix something -- or to provide information on an exact product the worker is looking at. It is also capable of scanning bar codes and recording procedures.

When a DB Schenker customer places an order, a worker can scan the inventory using the smart glasses to make sure the item is physically available. If it is not, an alert kicks back to another worker to restock the item, so no time is wasted on the floor.

"The best thing about it is it frees your hands up -- no carrying around papers or boxes," Pappas said.

The glasses are easy to work with and easy to learn.
John PappasIT project manager, DB Schenker

This feature is particularly useful in the warehouse, where turning a corner could mean colliding with a forklift.

As part of a logistics partner pilot program with Intel, DB Schenker has deployed about nine smart glasses so far, but plans to expand.

"We were even thinking of using them for some personal training, because you're able to show someone in the field exactly what to do," Pappas said.

The glasses -- which include Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth connectivity -- use Upskill's enterprise software suite called Skylight, which provides offline capabilities and other features. The glasses can also take advantage of other software, such as Atheer's AiR Suite and Augmate, which further customize their operations. AiR Suite allows organizations to create task lists for workers with smart glasses, and Augmate provides management for wearable devices. Organizations can also develop and deploy their own software for Recon Jet Pro, either independently or using the Intel developer support team.

DB Schenker has struggled to take advantage of the full functionality of the software capabilities as of right now, however, Pappas said.

"We don't have developers on standby," he said.

Another challenge is IT project managers must train employees on how to use the wearable smart glasses, and employees were initially hesitant to try them at all, he added.

Recon Jet Pro
Recon Jet Pro

Wearable glasses jet into the future

Intel's Recon Jet Pro glasses are built for job roles such as construction, maintenance and emergency responders. The computer is attached to the outer side of the glasses, as is the battery, which can detach to charge and lasts between two and five hours per use. The glass lenses are interchangeable for indoor and outdoor use.

Industrial workers could access this type of computing technology using tablets or computers, but wearable glasses are safer for workers in conditions that have more hazards, said Christopher Croteau, general manager of wearables at Intel.

"Anything we can do to bring that information into the workers' field of view unobtrusively and keep them focused on their tasks is what we want to do," Croteau said.

Intel developed the Recon Jet Pro after acquiring Recon a year and a half ago. In May, the company introduced the Recon Jet Pro ANSI Z87.1+ which has higher impact resistance for better eye protection. The ANSI Z87.1 smart glasses start at $599.

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