In a two-part series, New Equipment Digest highlights some startups you may not of heard of, with wearable products that could rival Google Glass on the factory floor.

Recon Instruments, maker of the Recon Jet Pro smart glasses, and Upskill, developer of the Skylight enterprise wearable software solution, entered the fourth industrial revolution through the side door and are on the verge of becoming the rock stars of the industrial wearable market.

It’s expected that 8% of all American workers will use smart glasses on the job by 2025, according to Forrester Research. And the workers will need them to keep up with an increasingly automated world.  In many ways, industrial wearables can be viewed as the most important tool you’ll use in the coming decade.

Recon Instruments originally intended to make high-tech swimmers’ goggles, but the small form factor and waterproofing of electronics proved to be engineering impediments. Larger, rugged-yet-ergonomic skiers’ goggles, though, would be easy to embed with sensors and electronics. And these mountains would be the perfect place to product test.

The inertial sensors, including the gyroscope, magnetometer, and altimeter that Recon embedded, allowed the skiers to gauge vital data that instantly appeared right on the display, such as how long they spent soaring in the chilly alpine air and other totally extreme metrics, like 3D speed, GPS tracking, vertical distance traveled, temperature, and time.

Their initial offering, the $399-499 Transcend, became the first heads-up display for athletes.  Recon was one of the pioneers in heads-up displays, long before Google launched Google Glass. And, outsold Google Glass by far before it was discontinued.

Recon evolved with the sensor and smartphone technology, adding a better CPU, sensors, more connectivity, and a POV camera and audio. One offshoot became the Recon Jet, which looked more like Oakley wraparound sunglasses.

While the smart glasses’ appeal expanded to runners, cyclists, and even skydivers, these smart glasses had nearly everything you’d want if you had to wear a pair for your factory floor shift: an array of sensors, connectivity, durability, and comfort. Recon’s design already gathered several sets of relevant data to increase user efficiency.

Recon Jet Pro ruggedized smart glasses
Recon Jet Pro ruggedized smart glasses (Image: Intel)

With Intel’s acquisition of Recon, their smart glasses were supplied to their manufacturing and logistics workers as part of a pilot program to to see how these ruggedized glasses would hold up in an industrial work setting.

Typical warehouse picking operations, account for about 55% of labor resources. So, they strapped on the glasses and used a ring scanner for hands-free picking. Other hands-free options, such as picking by light, which spotlights boxes on the racks, require expensive infrastructure and aren’t 100% error proof.

The Recon Jet Pro ($599) works for indoor and outdoor environments, with a sunlight-readable display, waterproof components, and a swappable battery that can last up to 5 hours. A patented glance detection function saves more power by switching off when you aren’t looking at the LCD. A 720P camera records video, which can be streamed via Bluetooth or WiFi from the field to a remote expert.

>> Learn more about the Recon Jet Pro from John Hitch, New Equipment Digest, April 10, 2017

Upskill’s Skylight software platform has been the go-to enterprise solution for Johnson & Johnson, GE and several other major companies in their logistics, field service, and manufacturing operations.

It serves as the connective tissue between workers, the IoT, HMIs, ERPs, MRPs, and every other relevant industrial acronym, creating and running the necessary work instructions, tasks, and digitized data through a wearable to make the worker’s job as easy and error-free as possible.

Upskill smartglass interface from worker perspective.
With smartglasses attuned to your connected factory via a software solution like Skylight, every level of operation, from safety to production, becomes enhanced. (Source: Upskill)

At Boeing, Skylight-powered pairs of Google Glass completely eliminated the need for wire harness assemblers to constantly look over at paper instructions or a laptop for the next step. Instead they could view the instructions in the display, and use voice commands to proceed. All the while, they kept both hands twisting and looping miles of wires that will eventually end up on an aircraft. Boeing says the solution cut production time by 25% and reduced errors to almost zero. (Maybe Glass wasn’t such a disaster after all.)

At GE. workers would walk up to a specific piece of industrial equipment and see through their smart glasses real-time statuses of that machine data connected to GE’s Predix platform. Then the worker could pull up a series of work instructions and compare real-time machine data.

Recently released case studies from GE illustrate that this technology doesn’t lead to mild-mannered incremental improvement; this is full-on immediate action.

For at least the next three to five years, the sweet spot in enterprise wearables is going to be delivering preexisting information within their database in an assisted reality fashion to create a hands-free computing environment.

You’ve automated your plant. You’ve got sensors on everything. And, you’re pulling out all this information about your production and your workflow. The last piece of your manufacturing facility that’s not connected is your worker. Running a solution such as Recon Jet Pro and Skylight, your workforce is finally dressed for success.

>> Read more by John Hitch, New Equipment Digest, April 11, 2017

Style & Substance: The New Wave of Industrial Wearables