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Wearable technology in the workplace

Wearable technologies are creating new productivity and business opportunities thanks to home grown innovation.

Wearable technology in the workplace

It all started in the 1990s with the personal digital assistant. Tech-savvy executives bought the must-have gadget on the weekend and brought it to work on Monday.

It was a disruptive moment. Information technology managers suddenly became responsible for small digital devices. For everyone else, it irrevocably changed the way we work.

Wearable devices are changing workplace culture yet again. This time it’s glasses and smartphones.

Today it’s wearable devices that are changing workplace culture yet again. This time it’s glasses and smartphones.

Two Telstra employees, Kelly Shultz and Peter Miller, are among the early pioneers whose lives are being changed from the combination of augmented reality apps, the cloud, and wireless connectivity.

Designed by Telstra and Australian developer b2cloud, the augmented reality apps are improving daily life.

Here’s how it works: Shultz and Miller connected a pair of Google Glasses with specially designed smartphone apps. An internet-connected computer embedded in the arm of the glasses constantly monitors what its wearer can see, delivering tailored feedback to a tiny screen mounted just above the eye, or the speaker above the ear.

For Shultz, who’s vision impaired, the application helps her navigate. The app takes an image of the scene in front of her, uploads that image to the cloud where it’s identified before Shultz receives a spoken description of the object.

The results to date are impressive, allowing her to do things like shop independently. A supermarket can be challenging for the vision impaired, she explained. “A packet of peas and a packet of minted peas are identical. There is just one word of difference. But the app can pick it!”

For hearing impaired Miller, his app does something entirely different. When he’s listening to someone speak, Google Glass provides an important visual aid. The audio conversation is streamed in real-time to the cloud, where it’s converted to text before being displayed in the glasses for Miller to read.

The solution is not just improving his conversations, but making life practically easier. Miller no longer needs to carry around the laptop computer that previously performed this speech-to-text function.

“I never had the idea that you would wear a pair of glasses and they would stream [the text] in front of your eyes.”

Wearable technology in the workplace

Schultz and Miller’s examples are just the beginning. Global management consultancy, Accenture, believes the workplace will continue to drive innovation around wearable devices.

“Wearable displays will begin with companies, not consumers, with the first Fortune 500 production deployments starting this [northern Autumn],” it says in a report released in June: Putting Wearable Displays to Work in the Enterprise.

Workplace productivity gains are among the expected benefits from scenarios such as tracking the movement of transport and logistics employees.

It’s also expected that wearable devices such as Google Glass will lead to innovative training techniques. “Enterprises have business cases that could save billions of dollars,” the report states. “Especially for specific industries and certain types of workers.”


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