Augmented Reality Picking with Wearable Technology – Vuzix Smart Glasses
Technology has always been a driving factor in supply chain progress and efficiency gains. The perfect example of this is the introduction of “goods-to-person” technologies over the past couple years. These systems have created tremendous productivity gains for the supply chain. As the industry is still enjoying the benefits from this technology, wandering eyes are already looking toward the next technology boost to further increase efficiency in warehouses and distribution centers. As augmented reality and wearable technology continue to mature, their combination appears to be posing as the next hit in the supply chain industry.
The most promising wearable technology for our industry are smart glasses. They are developing very quickly and have been providing the most significant and immediate promise. Smart glasses offer rich features such as mobile, hands-free picking in addition to a potentially low cost of ownership–benefits that warehouse managers covet.
Initial challenge came from Google Glass, but after it became apparent Google was more focused on the consumer market and less on the industrial, enterprise environment, other companies like Vuzix were able to enter the market and offer a more industrial solution using smart glasses technology. Vuzix, with strong backing from larger technology companies like Intel, Lenovo and others, provides a great foundation for introducing smart glasses into the supply chain arena.
Wearable Technology for Picking Applications
Bar code scanning with smart glasses
Smart glasses can be used in many different areas, but the most obvious place where they can be used in warehouses is order picking. The operation is extremely simple.
A pick operator wearing smart glasses loads a batch of orders to be picked and asks via the built-in microphone to be given the next location where a pick is to be performed. As operators are navigated toward the location, smart glasses scan the location barcode and validate that the operator is in the right place. The built-in vision system recognizes the product and verifies the correct item is picked. Operators are visually and audibly guided to place the product into the right position on the picking cart. A pick is then complete, and the system updates the order status and inventory levels. Operators execute the prior steps until the batch of orders are completed.
Benefits of Smart Glasses in the Warehouse
Smart glasses have an advanced set of features that bring a slew of benefits to supply chain operations:
- Mobile solution – Wearable technology is fully mobile and can be used without recharging for a long period of time, covering an entire shift of operation.
- Rich graphical user interface – Full color, high-resolution displays provide a visually equivalent image to a smartphone display. Displays can also show rich information without the need for carrying a handheld device.
- Voice-controlled processing – With built-in speakers, microphone, and voice recognition engine, smart glasses capture and execute voice commands.
- Barcode scanning and image capture – With a built-in camera and ability to capture video, scanning of barcodes is an integral part of smart glass technology.
- Vision-aided processing – In conjunction with the built-in camera, the vision recognition framework helps with accuracy of supply chain operations, for example, picking the correct product during an order fulfillment process.
- Global positioning – A built-in GPS system aids with operator navigation and positioning within the warehouse.
- Gesture controls – A gesture recognition engine within the smart glasses can recognize certain head or body movement, which can serve as commands to the system.
- Hands-free processing – The entire system is located in the smart glasses, and it does not require hands to operate.
- Potential low cost of ownership – As smart glasses find their use in both the consumer and enterprise market, the demand will drive the prices down, and smart glasses will become more affordable than some existing mobile solutions in the supply chain.
The Future of Wearable Technology for the Supply Chain
Today, wearable technology is still in its infancy. Even with that, it is a $3 billion dollar industry, mostly on the consumer market side, and smart glasses are generating an increasing portion of this revenue. As the market continues to grow, the features will follow while the cost of smart glass will decline. It will be a very attractive alternative to existing supply chain technologies. Inevitably, wearable technology, with smart glasses included, is becoming part of our daily lives and will play a major role in supply chain operations in the near future.
If you are curious about wearable technology for the warehouse, Bastian Solutions will demonstrate Vuzix smart glasses in our ProMat booth (#3953) in Chicago, March 23-26. Please join us at the show to try on the glasses or test our other picking technologies, including voice and light-directed picking as well as RF picking.