6 Main 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 change – enabling high-performing work environments where real-time worker/worker and worker/machine communications prevail, observes Eric Whitley, director of smart manufacturing at L2L and shares the primary types and capabilities of connected worker tech.

Connected worker technology allows workers to monitor processes on the spot and collect or share up-to-date information instantly. This lets workers make quick, data-driven decisions that help improve safety and efficiency at the workplace, reducing the costs associated with unscheduled downtime, human errors and work accidents.

According to Adroit Market ResearchOpens a new window , demand in the global connected worker market is rising in tandem with the demand for improvements in workplace safety — especially 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-literate consumers.

How Can We Apply Connected Worker Technology?

What is the exact technology that turns regular workers into connected workers? Here are the six main types of connected worker technology. 

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 several sources, including connected worker platforms, to provide manufacturers with insights into their operations and help them make informed decisions.

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

For example, they can supply workers with instant access to enterprise documents or user-generated reports, training materials, real-time data that trigger actionable insights, and remote assistance.

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

These platforms allow extra control of 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 surroundings in an immersive way thanks to the different interfaces that are integrated into connected worker solutions.

Interfaces are meant to be intuitive and simple to use so that they don’t interfere with ongoing work. That is why Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs) are preferred. GUIs interact with electronic devices via graphical icons and visual indicators. Modern GUIs work with touchscreens — such as in the case of smartphones, tablets or similar devices.

Voice-activated systems are also a common interface in connected worker solutions, given that they are very practical for work environments where workers may have their hands occupied. 

Hands-free device operation impacts productivity positively, allowing workers to access information and connect with other workers without disrupting the workflow. 

3. Smart sensors and IoT devices

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

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

For example, in a factory setting, smart sensors can detect abnormal temperatures in a machine. Then, they transmit that data to an IoT gateway or a cloud platform through the local IoT network. Once the data is processed and analyzed, the IoT device can generate a report or trigger an alarm and send an alert to connected workers.

Connected workers can visualize and interact with the data on their own devices and make a decision — such as shutting down the machine and finding the cause of 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 certain resources via the internet, such as applications and databases. As a result, it makes it easier to process heavier computational 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. 

This way, production processes and machinery can be monitored at all times — even remotely. 

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

Once called the future of cloud computing, edge computing allows devices such as smartphones, sensors and machines to process data locally rather than send it to the cloud. This way, connected workers can quickly obtain information, even in areas with poor internet connectivity.

5. Wearable devices

Connected workers rely on devices that facilitate access to information and communication. In that sense, wearable devices boost the capabilities of connected worker solutions because they provide hands-free interaction with digital systems and data.

For example, connected workers wearing smartwatches can receive alerts and notifications directly on their wrist, call backup instantly, and use the device’s GPS to share their location or the accelerometer to let supervisors track their movement.

Connected workers can also wear smart glasses equipped with cameras, microphones, and other sensors, which let them capture and transmit data in real-time without using their hands.

Additionally, smart glasses can support augmented reality (AR) applications, which overlay computer-generated images onto the real world, enabling interactive training and advanced remote assistance.

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

6. Mobile devices

Everybody owns a smartphone nowadays, and connected workers are no exception.

Connected workers use their smartphones and tablets to communicate with each other through 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), file storage and sharing apps, and connected workers’ specific mobile apps. 

The Future of Connected Worker Technology

Technology advancements allow manufacturing workers to monitor processes and gather or share up-to-date information instantly, leading to improved safety, efficiency and reduced costs. 

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

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

Do you think that 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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