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The Future of Wearable Technology in the Workplace

Posted on by Ismail Nabeel MD, MPH FACOEM

 

Mention of a product or service does not constitute and endorsement by NIOSH or the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Author wearing Google Glasses. Photo courtesy of Dr. Nabeel.

An era of remarkable innovation is underway. We’re looking at the advent of brand-new technologies called “Wearable Computers”. Wearable computers, also known as body-borne computers or wearables, are defined as “miniature electronic devices that are worn by the bearer under, with or on top of clothing”. (dictionary.com). We are already starting to appreciate their presence in our daily lives as people start wearing devices like Fitbit, Nike fuel band, Jawbone Up, Pebble Watch, even the device to track dog’s activity, “Whistle”.

In early 2013, I became part of the select group of 8,000 selected for the social experiment conducted by Google called the “Google Glass Explorer Program”.   The goal for this unique national social experiment was to figure out how wearable computers could work in a complex social setting. Last year, I was fortunate to be invited to present my experiences to NIOSH staff in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I experienced many advantages to this technology – displaying driving directions, translating multiple languages, providing flight information, and reminding me of appointments. My contribution included transmitting a point of view (POV) of a surgeon during a live orthopedic surgery to medical students in real time. Wearable technology can be used for working in remote locations, disaster areas and underserved communities. It is possible to transmit information/data/images/scenarios back to other healthcare providers and workers at multiple sites simultaneously.

Although it has been widely reported in the Media that “Google Glass” is no longer on sale and the product has been discontinued by Google, the communication I have received from Google (shared publically 1/15/15)states that Google Glass has now graduated from the explorer/experimental Google[x] labs program. They are now in a process of re-engineering the Glass to be launch as a 2.0 product for the market.

Although we don’t know when the new Google Glass version will be released, Google continues to work with its Google Glass partners. The “Google at Work” program has been up and running (Hedgecock, S. 2015). Additionally, Microsoft recently announced the HoloLens (Warren, C 2015) which will continue to transform the use of wearable computers similar to Google Glass in the work space.

Applications in the Workplace

There are many applications for wearable computers in the workplace and the field of occupational safety and health. Below are a few examples of how Google and others are applying wearable technology in the workplace.

  • Google Glass Explorer Patrick Jackson (Kelly 2014), a firefighter from Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, built an interesting “Glassware” (application) which provided hands-free access to the information that firefighters need in the field. In one of the test cases an app demonstrated how to dismantle a body of a Ford Explorer and extract an injured victim. Because the information was displayed on the glasses, both of the firefighter’s hands were free to work on removing the victim.
  • X0Eye technology (Shaw 2014) has taken the challenge of using wearable technologies at the workplace one step further. They are building an industrial grade, robust, ruggedized, ANSI-certified, reusable, low-cost smart eyewear. This product includes two 5 megapixel cameras which sit in the upper corner of each eyepiece and can be used for taking photos, live streaming videos in real time and recording footage. They were able to house an accelerometer, gyroscope, and processor into a smaller portable device. At this point in time the product has yet to be released. The final weight of the device will eventually determine the long-term, continuous use of these wearable devices by the employees in an eight hour work shift.
  • Companies like “Wearable Intelligence” (Fiegerman 2014) have been working with oil companies/enterprises/Fortune 500 companies to transmit real-time information back to the worksite. One such example includes a change in gas pressure presented in real time on the Google Glass virtual display while an employee is trying to open the lever of the valve. The information has been presented in real time as the worker turns off the pressure valve. The implication of such information in prevention and reduction of exposures to the worker is enormous. We’re looking at providing a complete loop of such information in which the exposed individual can actually see the exposure occurring in real time and then he/she can take fundamental steps to avoid or limit that exposure. This also has application for those working with radiation and hazardous chemicals and for those working in enclosed spaces, mining, contaminated sites, and disaster response.

There are many potential benefits to introducing wearable technology in the workplace. As with all new technologies, we need to proceed cautiously. These applications could raise potential concerns for workers. What if users experience headaches (Ackerman 2014), double vision and dizziness as we saw in the case study with surgeons? Is usage optional? Will employers need to develop usage guidelines? Recently Google Glass was noted to be a distraction for drivers (Davies 2014). Will employers have to have implement policies restricting use while driving to limit liability? Will employer infrastructure need to be updated to accommodate multiple users? These are pragmatic questions that need further testing in the work place. I look forward to seeing how wearable technology will be applied in the future.

 

Ismail Nabeel MD, MPH FACOEM

Dr. Nabeel is Deputy Medical Director of Employee Health, Safety and Wellness and the Selikoff Centers for Occupational Health, Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

 

References:

Ackerman, Elise. “Could Google Glass Hurt Your Eyes? A Harvard Vision Scientist and Project Glass Advisor Responds.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 4 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

Davies, Alex. “Turns Out Google Glass May Be Only Kind of Distracting While Driving | WIRED.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 11 Nov. 2014. Web. 06 Jan. 2015. <http://www.wired.com/2014/11/google-glass-driving-distraction-study/

Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 06, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wearable computer)

Fiegerman, Seth. “Google Glass Is Getting a Second Look from Businesses.” The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 Sept. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

Hedgecock, S. (2015, January 23). Google Glass Startups Claim: Not Dead Yet. Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahhedgecock/2015/01/23/these-entrepreneurs-depend-on-google-glass-so-why-are-they-happy/

Kelly, Heather. “Fighting Fires with the Help of Google Glass.” CNN.     Cable News Network, 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

Kerr, D. “Doctors Testing Google Glass to Get Real-time Patient Data.” CNET. 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://www.cnet.com/news/doctors-testing-google-glass-to-get-real-time-patient-data/

Shaw, Kachina. “XOEye Technologies Taking Wearables Beyond the Device.” ITBusinessEdge, 07 Feb. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

Warren, C. (2015, January 22). Microsoft HoloLens won’t be the next Google Glass, and that’s a good thing. (Mashable) Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2015/01/21/microsoft-hololens-and-google-glass/

 

Posted on by Ismail Nabeel MD, MPH FACOEM

42 comments on “The Future of Wearable Technology in the Workplace”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Not sure there will be a huge surge of demand until the design is perfected. Nowadays fashion/trend outweighs quality, just look at an iPhone. Do they create breakthrough technology that no other phone can produce? No. Are they better quality/have better functions? No. Do you want an iPhone or a Nexus? Uhh I think I’ll have the iPhone because my mates all have them and we can play candy crush.

    Sandra Walters

    That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. Thanks for all the enthusiasm to offer such helpful information here.

    The wearable technology will prove to be a great invention in this age of science. As every person is becoming a multi-tasking and wants to have all the things done instantly. So if wearable computers are made, it will really help the peoples who work in the field and can’t operate computers at that time, also it will prove to be a boon for others as well.

    Thanks

    This is an awesome post. Really very informative and creative. This sharing concept is a good way to enhance the knowledge. Thank you very much for this post. I like this site very much. You can visit here. wearable technologies is exploding world wide. For information, reviews and fun facts about wearable technology, fitbit sleep tracker and best fitness band etc.

    google glass is a good product. unfortunately I’ve never tried it. hopefully one day be tried as where I can feel the current smartphone technology. at least be aware of emerging technologies from multiple sites.

    Great post.

    Future of technology wearables is bright. But for this …advancement of technology is required at it best. Google Glass is good but still lacks many of the facilities which we require for a high tech life.
    It is really a great post. Thanks for pouring your thoughts.
    Thanks,
    Sabrez Alam

    A great and awesome post regarding the future of wearable technology. Let’s hope that many other companies tries to adopt this technology.

    many wearable technology now for public use, but i have read some article about google X project is that project for wearable technology or for military ?

    I have no further insights on the Google X project other than what you have read in the public media and on the Internet.

    Thank you for your attention to detail and great writing style. Your professionalism shows in your article. I like your interesting views and appreciate your unique ideas regarding the new technology. This is quality.

    Wearable solutions are a lot more useful these emerging solutions that blow you away with their significant impact!

    Actually wearable technology is changing day by day . Google Glass is very smart product of latest technology . Thanks for sharing this informative article about wearable technology .

    I like the valuable info you supply in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check once more right here frequently. I’m rather sure I’ll be told a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the following!

    What about radiofrequency radiation concerns? This places non-ionizing radiation close to the eye and body. When will NIH look into this?

    Talking about wearables, I recently read that US government is farming genetically modified silk worms (that produce spider silk) to make lighter bullet proof vests (link gadgtecs.com/2016/07/19/u-s-military-testing-genetically-engineered-spider-silk-for-armor/) Is this true?

    Almost all of of major tech companies are working on some kind of wearable device and businesses are also trying to incorporate these gadgets into their work. So we are all excited to see how wearable technology will be applied in the future.

    Wearable Computing is the future of mobile devices. While device development is really taking off with products like FitBit, Apple Watch, and Android Wear.

    Yeah,
    Wearable technology is in trend today. Everyone is concerned about their personal safety. Personal safety wearable could prove helpful to them as it can alert you during any kind of emergency with a single click. They can even call or send messages to all the emergency contacts with the help of beacon. There are number of companies which provide the personal safety devices those basically are wearable beacon. I have experience with one of the USA Company that provide the emergency security alert system with the help of Beacon and that work perfect for me in terms of personal safety in emergency situation. So according to this experience, I can say wearable beacon can save our life if we caught in any emergency situation

    Great Article!! I appreciate your blog; It’s very informative and helpful. I like google glass. Thanks for sharing this information.

    thanks for your informative post as it gives a lot of help when working with gadgets and modern technology. for help regarding your [ ] computers and laptops repair visit our site.

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