Types and Capabilities of Connected Worker Technology

The advent of Industry 4.0 has changed the way manufacturers work. Connected worker technology is at the forefront of this shift — enabling high-performing work environments where real-time communication between worker to worker and worker to machine prevails, observes Eric Whitley, Director of Smart Manufacturing at L2L, and shares the key types and capabilities of Connected with worker

Connected worker technology enables employees to monitor processes on site and immediately collect or share up-to-date information. This enables employees to make rapid, data-driven decisions that help improve workplace safety and efficiency, and reduce costs associated with unplanned downtime, human error and work-related injuries.

According to Adroit Market ResearchOpens a new window, demand in the global market for connected workers is increasing in tandem with demand for improvements in workplace safety – particularly in risky sectors.

The same source reports that the expansion of the connected worker market is also linked to the widespread adoption of smartphones and broadband internet, as well as the rising number of tech-savvy consumers.

How can we apply connected worker technology?

What is the exact technology that transforms regular workers into connected workers? Here are the six main types of technology for the connected workforce.

1. Manufacturing platforms

A manufacturing platform is a system that uses various technologies – from the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence to computer-aided design (CAD) software, Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system — to automate and optimize production processes.

The goal of a manufacturing platform is to improve efficiency and product quality while reducing waste and unplanned downtime.

Manufacturing platforms often collect and analyze data from multiple sources, including connected work platforms, to give manufacturers insight into their operations and help them make informed decisions.

Connected work platforms are part of the smart manufacturing approach leading Industry 4.0. They support digital tools that enhance communication and collaboration between workers and machines across the manufacturing ecosystem.

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For example, they can provide employees with instant access to company documents or user-generated reports, training materials, real-time data that triggers actionable insights, and remote support.

To make this possible, connected worker platforms typically combine software and hardware assets, such as mobile apps and devices, that help workers share information in real time.

These platforms enable additional control over manufacturing processes by creating new connections between devices, machines, applications and people.

2. User Interfaces

Connected workers can easily share information and interact with their environment in an immersive way thanks to the various interfaces built into connected worker solutions.

Interfaces should be intuitive and easy to use so that they do not interfere with ongoing work. Therefore, graphical user interfaces (GUIs) are preferred. GUIs interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and visual displays. Modern GUIs work with touchscreens – for example on smartphones, tablets or similar devices.

Speech-enabled systems are also a common interface in connected worker solutions, as they are very convenient for work environments where workers may have their hands occupied.

The hands-free use of devices has a positive impact on productivity, as employees can access information and connect with other employees without interrupting the workflow.

3. Smart sensors and IoT devices

IoT is an interconnected network of devices that use smart sensors to collect and transmit data to a central platform where analytics software converts it into actionable data.

IoT devices help reduce costs and save energy in several areas, and they are certainly useful as a connected worker technology. When the data collected by smart sensors becomes available to users via IoT devices, connected worker solutions can deliver it to the workers who need it.

For example, smart sensors in a factory setting can detect abnormal temperatures in a machine. They then transfer this data to an IoT gateway or cloud platform via the local IoT network. Once the data has been processed and analyzed, the IoT device can generate a report or trigger an alarm and send an alert to connected workers.

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Connected workers can visualize and interact with the data on their own devices and make a decision – like turning off the machine and finding the cause of the overheating.

See more: How AR/VR is driving automation and robotics for manufacturers

4. Cloud and Edge Computing

Cloud computing provides on-demand access to specific resources over the Internet, such as B. Applications and databases. This makes it easier to handle heavier workloads.

In the manufacturing industry, cloud-based systems can collect and analyze large amounts of data from connected devices and sensors. Through the cloud, connected workers can access this data and use it to make decisions or predict equipment failures, regardless of their location.

In this way, production processes and machines can be monitored at any time – even remotely.

Edge computing, on the other hand, is a decentralized computing framework that reduces latency and improves network performance by offloading tasks to network endpoints that are closer to the data source — which is typically near the edge of the network.

Once dubbed the future of cloud computing, edge computing allows devices like smartphones, sensors, and machines to process data locally instead of sending it to the cloud. In this way, networked employees can quickly retrieve information even in areas with poor Internet connections.

5. Portable Devices

Connected workers depend on devices that make it easier to access information and communicate. In this sense, wearables increase the capabilities of connected worker solutions as they enable hands-free interaction with digital systems and data.

For example, connected workers wearing smartwatches can get alerts and notifications right on their wrist, instantly call for backup, and use the device’s GPS to share their location or the accelerometer so managers can track their movement.

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Connected workers can also wear smart glasses equipped with cameras, microphones, and other sensors that allow them to collect and transmit data in real time without using their hands.

In addition, smart glasses can support augmented reality (AR) applications that overlay computer-generated imagery into the real world, enabling interactive training and extended remote assistance.

Connected workers can also wear AR headsets to access these applications and interact with their environment in new ways.

6. Mobile Devices

Everyone has a smartphone these days, and connected workers are no exception.

Connected employees use their smartphones and tablets to communicate with each other via text messages, voice calls and video calls – but also to access relevant information anywhere and anytime without interrupting their tasks.

Smartphones and tablets support mobile productivity tools (such as time tracking apps or task management software), apps for storing and sharing files, and specific mobile apps for connected workers.

The future of connected worker technology

Technological advances allow manufacturing workers to monitor processes and instantly collect or share up-to-date information, resulting in increased safety, efficiency and reduced costs.

The increasing demand for technology for the connected worker is being driven by the need for workplace security, widespread adoption of smartphones and broadband internet, and a growing number of tech-savvy consumers.

With these advances, connected workers are now able to make fast, data-driven decisions and stay connected to the latest information and resources regardless of their location.

Do you think connected worker technologies will change the way we think about and approach work in the future? Comment below or connect with us on TwitterOpens a new window, FacebookOpens a new window, and LinkedInOpens a new window.

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