The announcement of Android Wear and the imminent battle between Apple and Google to build a computer that people will actually wear, reminded me of DCT’s first experience with wearable computer technology.
In the summer of 2000, DCT was involved in a warehouse management project with Sony Electronics. The solution seamed right in our wheelhouse: we needed to integrate wireless scanners into a mainframe computer system, exactly what had led to the business’s founding two years earlier.
Shortly into the project, a Sony manager went to a trade show and saw a new product from Symbol Technologies – the WS 1040 and was certain that this revolutionary product was exactly what Sony needed for the small item picking process we were trying to automate.
At the time, the device had us mystified.
It was just too strange a concept to get our minds around, a computer that you wore. Quickly, though, we discovered that inside the WS 1040 was the same as all the other Symbol devices and we were easily able to use it with our DataCatcher software.
Today, the descendant of the WS 1040, the Motorola 41NO, is one of our best-selling mobile computers, primarily in small pick/case pick applications. Motorola also offers a version with no keypad or screen that is utilized in voice picking applications – WT41N0 VOW.
My point is this: wearable technology is not terribly new. In fact, this image from Wikipedia shows the progression of a vision that looks a lot like Google Glass and Motorola’s latest science project the HC1.
Through the years, we have learned that wearable technology works in very specific applications. Adding enabling technologies like voice, or in the future, gesture and movement inputs, will increase the viability of wearable technology in line of business applications.
However, ergonomics and environmental considerations are paramount in ensuring user acceptance.
For instance, we have seen environments seemingly perfect for the Motorola wearable in which it has been rejected. This typically occurs because of issues ranging from temperature in a facility — the wearable and sleeve typically used with it generate noticeable heat — to the weight of the device and ergonomics of the scanner. When the wearable is the right fit, it greatly increases productivity. These environments, however, are limited.
At DCT Mobile we are watching Android Wear very closely. The consumerization of wearable computing will drive innovation at a much faster pace than we have seen in the industrial space, and our customers will expect that if their “Google Watch” can do something, certainly a $1,000.00 mobile computer can do it, too.
In the meantime, we look forward to adding Dick Tracy’s watch to the Jetson’s TV phone as realized dreams from our childhood. Me? I’m still waiting for my personal Jet pack.