Google Glass never died, it just moved to industry

We all know that IoT is not just about the Nest, Amazon Echo, and Web-connected security cams. But it would be a mistake to discount the importance of consumer technologies.

Email and the Web upended businesses beginning in the 1990s. With the introduction of robust smartphone and tablet platforms, the bring your own device (BYOD) trend disrupted enterprise IT’s outlook for managing security, communications, and specialty applications. Now, we’re starting to see some interesting consumer IoT tech crossing over to the industrial realm.

One of the most fascinating case studies shared at #IoTfM17 was from Peggy Gulick, Director, Business Process Improvement at AGCO Corp, a manufacturer of heavy agricultural equipment such as tractors, combines, and bailers. AGCO had already embraced IT into its production workflows, but it was problematic for operators to have to enter data into tablets or PCs. Here’s why:

  1. Data was entered in fits and starts as operators worked on a process.
  2. The devices often broke – one QA scenario described by Gulick involved placing a ruggedized tablet next to or on top of the treads as they were being inspected, and then revving up the vehicle and inadvertently turning the tablet into a $3,000 pile of broken plastic and silicon.
  3. It’s dangerous enough working around 5-ton vehicles and industrial equipment without having to handle a tablet and look down at the screen every five minutes.
Google Glass enterprise edition. Source: X Company
Google’s spectacles for industrial use.

Enter Google Glass, Enterprise Edition. The wearable, connected glasses were part of the early “wearables” trend in the consumer space, but became a laughing stock after a series of embarrassing privacy incidents (Protip: Wearable video cameras don’t go over well in dive bars). But Glass has enjoyed an unexpected comeback in heavy industry. Gulick showed videos of operators using Glass to check diagrams as they assembled components, or using it as a hands-free QA checklist. According to Gulick, the project has not only reduced process time by 30-35%, it as also led to an unanticipated reduction in training time — from 10 days to 3 days. She adds operators are also working more safely.

Here’s a video Peggy showed at the conference of Glass in action:

That wasn’t the only example of consumer tech making the jump to manufacturing. Jaime Rivera, Software Engineering Manager at flooring manufacturer Shaw Floors Inc., showed a diagram of the company’s data architecture. Holding it all together was Kafka, a scalable, low-latency messaging bus technology that was originally developed at LinkedIn!

Endpoint: Just as consumer tech transformed businesses in the 90s and 2000s, industry has begun to experience technologies originally intended for consumer IoT crossing over to the factory floor. Pay attention to how consumer IoT tech might be adapted to industrial use.

This is an excerpt from Priority Payload Report.