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Shaping the Future of Work by Freeing the Hands of Workers

I read an interesting article in the November 7, 2014 issue of the San Francisco Business Times called “Business Puts On Its Wearbles.”

The subtitle of the article resonated with me: Google Glass is just the beginning: Tech giants and the Fortune 500 see limitless potential in data-rich glasses, wristbands and other devices to free the hands of workers.

The article references a smart-glass platform developed by Ralph Osterhout (Osterhout Design Group) capable of running full Android tablet software with extraordinary crisp optics displayed in front of the user eyes. Effectively, the glasses create the equivalent of a 65-inch display 10 feet away.

Great, now I can watch Raider and 49’er football in full display from the comfort of my hammock! But is that all there is to it? There must be more important jobs smart-glass platforms can do beyond increasing the entertainment experience of watching TV.

Indeed there is, and that’s for improving how workers who use their hands, get important jobs done better, faster and cheaper – resulting in creating more value and overall job execution satisfaction. According to the article:

“Big global companies are busily putting on wearable technologies ranging from smart glasses to sensor-filled wristbands, with the aim of transforming jobs done by the enormous number of workers who don’t have hands free to operate technology.”

Just think about jobs that workers do that involve their hands. Where it’s not practical for a worker to access a PC or laptop without using their hands and thus interrupting their work flow.

Have you ever tried using a PC or tablet while wearing gloves? Or have you ever worked on a machine where your hands get oily, and before you can handle that IT device, you need to stop and clean your hands?

So why would a worker want to access his or her PC in the first place? What possibly could they want to get done better by having access to corporate information systems and streaming video? Turns out a lot!

Important jobs people want to get done using hands free augmented reality

Assembly workers could access assembly procedures that appear directly in front of their eyes, guiding them through an assembly procedure. They could be guided to pick the right part in the right sequence, and shown where and how to place the part. Minimizing assembly errors.

And the same device could provide the manufacturing engineer direct feedback, practically through the eyes of the assembler, on the assembler’s productivity. What is she having problems doing? And on the fly, the manufacturing engineer could provide both voice and video instructions on how to overcome assembly problems.

Take the same scenario into the field for a field technician. The guy who is working on an complex satellite ground station for example. Maybe he is installing it, or repairing. But because the system is so unique, a set of expert eyes from the home office would make his job of installing the system far more productive and increase the likelihood of getting the system through customer acceptance faster and easier.

In the Business Times article, Sophie Miller a spokesperson at Google’s Project Glass was quoted saying:

“The common trend was that these [job executors] were people who work with their hands and they felt they had limited access to good technology because they have to put down their work and therefore are unable to be productive while accessing technology.”

Think of all the job executors out there whose jobs can be improved by accessing information hands free, as well as providing feedback and information back to a resource center for better situational awareness and expert instruction.

The industrial market for “hands free” technology access is huge!

We are talking 10’s of millions of people who use their hands in performing their jobs. Think about the Paramedic responding to a medical emergency. Her ability to perform emergency medical procedures in the field would be greatly expanded if she had the eyes and wisdom of the emergency doctor virtually at her side.

Or the auto mechanic doing work on a car he is not familiar with. Instead of having to drop his tools and climb out from under the car to check his computer manual, he could simple say or gesture and bring up the right repair procedure to get the job done right, faster and with less frustration.

When technology companies think from the perspective of getting jobs done, it becomes far clearer how a new technology can be applied to solving real problems workers face in getting their important jobs done.

And when there are enough job executors with the same important job to get done (for example having the right information before their eyes anytime – anywhere to better execute their job), odds are good a game changing new market opportunity is in the making for a company to exploit and launch breakthrough new products.

Smart glasses and wearables may just be the next big thing the tech industry takes hold of that will reshape how work gets done in the future. When there is an important job to be done, that can be dramatically improved upon by new technology – by George – you have a winner in the making.

Here’s to getting important jobs done better and keeping your hands free to do the work!


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