Workspace IoT Series: 3 Industries Embracing Industry 4.0 Tech Today

Mar 29, 2019
Jessie Stoks

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Jessie Stoks is a product marketing manager for VMware End-User Computing (EUC).

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Last month, we introduced the Workspace IoT Series, a blog series dedicated to a subset of lightweight IoT-type endpoints, called workspace IoT (which includes wearables, peripherals, and single-purpose endpoints). Our first post focused on Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution that, in its full potential, will drive workspace IoT adoption across all industries. However, Industry 4.0 is still an evolving concept that’s several years away for most organizations—but not all. Today, we see manufacturing, retail, and healthcare verticals embracing Industry 4.0 in specific use cases. This post will explore how these industries are leveraging workspace IoT endpoints, alongside existing mobile devices, to improve the employee and customer experience and optimize business operations.

Manufacturing

To remain competitive, manufacturers are maximizing efficiency, quality, and safety throughout supply chain operations by integrating existing ruggedized device deployments with workspace IoT endpoints, like mobile printers and wearables. In the past, centralized printing required workers to leave their workstation to pick up receipts or labels. Today, manufacturers are deploying mobile wireless printers, alongside ruggedized handheld barcode scanners or mobile computers, to improve labeling accuracy and efficiency.

According to MHI, 70% of manufacturing and supply chain facilities will adopt wearables in the next five years. Smart glasses, in particular, are being used to improve manufacturing processes across the plant floor, field operations, and warehouse by delivering instructions, visual diagrams, and reference materials directly to the workers’ line-of-sight. The ability to work hands-free is especially beneficial for factory workers responsible for completing repetitive or detailed tasks in potentially hazardous environments. For assembly line workers, this means uninterrupted focus on complex, specialized tasks where errors can be a matter of life or death, or an expensive delay at best. Boeing, for example, cut its wiring production time by 25% and reduced error rates effectively to zero with Google Glass and Upskill’s Skylight augmented reality (AR) platform. AGCO, an agricultural machinery manufacturer, also decreased its production time by 25% and cut inspection times by 30% by reducing the need for workers to access checklists and instruction manuals from laptops. In addition to simplifying assembly instructions, streamlining equipment maintenance, and eliminating manual data entry, manufacturers are also leveraging smart glasses to compensate for the industry’s notoriously high turnover rate. Smart glasses allow new or less-experienced workers to access immersive, hands-on training, as well as easily connect to remote experts. (AGCO experienced a 50% reduction in new employee training time.) In hazardous work environments, wearables are also being used to reduce workplace injuries and accidents. Smart watches or wristbands are non-obtrusive and can track a worker’s location, monitor their physical health, and send important safety alerts.

Retail

With more ways to connect, and shop, customers expect more from retailers in-store and online. According to Grand View Research, retail IoT will be a $94 billion market by 2025, so it’s no surprise that stores everywhere are leveraging AR, mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) technologies and workspace IoT endpoints to enhance the customer experience.

While ruggedized handheld barcode scanners and mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) devices have been ubiquitous for years, today’s retailers are equipping customer-facing employees with multi-functional consumer devices. Consumer smartphones and tablets, often outfitted in durable enterprise sleds, enable store associates to easily communicate with each other, access product and customer information, and process payments. Retailers are also using smart beacons and interactive digital signage and kiosks to entertain tech savvy buyers, as well as promote new products, create purchase impulse, and collect in-store data.

The alphabet soup of augmented reality—AR, MR, and VR—is transforming how shoppers interact with brands in-store and at home. Retailers like The Home Depot and Magnolia Market are connecting the mobile, online, and in-store experience through AR apps that enable customers to visualize how products will fit and look in their homes before making a purchase. Thanks to advances in face-mapping technology, brands like Sephora and Warby Parker have added virtual try-on features to their apps. In-store, augmented reality may seem like a futuristic novelty used to draw in shoppers, but retailers are using it to build a hyper-personalized experience. Virtual fitting rooms (leveraging AR and motion sensing technology) allow shoppers to avoid the fitting room line and retailers to better understand customer preferences and improve product recommendations. MR headsets are enabling brick-and-mortar stores, with limited inventory, to compete with e-commerce giants by allowing customers to customize and interact with products not available in stores. Retailers are also using VR headsets to make employee training more immersive. Walmart recently launched a nationwide VR training program with Oculus Go headsets to expose store associates to a variety of scenarios without disrupting their store operations.

Healthcare

According to a recent study by Johns Hopkins, medical error causes more than 250,000 deaths every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the US. The cause? Communication problems, inadequate information flow, poor documentation, and technical failures. While the introduction of computers and mobile devices, over the past decade, have helped improve standards of care, workspace IoT endpoints have been instrumental in reducing the most common types of medical error and cutting costs. Handheld barcode scanners, for example, when used alongside mobile printers, can significantly reduce specimen labeling errors by enabling nurses to print patient-specific labels, containing lab orders, right at the point of collection.

Healthcare facilities are also reducing medical error with smart glasses, which can help surgeons and physicians interacting with patients. In the operating room, AR smart glasses are able to deliver real-time patient information and alerts—particularly during intricate procedures. Some hospitals are even experimenting with MR headsets that allow surgeons to see a 3D projection of the patient’s anatomy to know exactly where to make an incision. Smart glasses are also being used by physicians to transcribe information during patient visits. This not only improves the efficacy of clinical documentation but allows physicians to stay more personally engaged with patients.

Aside from improving quality of care and reducing error, workspace IoT endpoints are also enhancing the patient experience from check-in to check-out. Implementing self-check-in systems can save administrative and reception staff time and improve patient privacy and wait times. Once a patient is admitted, beside tablets and voice assistants (like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) are creating a more personalized experience, by giving patients access to facility information and entertainment, as well as room controls. Upon check-out, healthcare facilities can also issue wearable devices (like wrist-worn fitness trackers) to patients to monitor recovery and reduce readmission rates.

Stay tuned for the next post in this blog series, which will explore how workspace IoT is shaping the smart office of the future. In upcoming posts, we’ll also cover the key ingredients to a successful workspace IoT deployment and how VMware Workspace ONE Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) platform can help you secure and manage such devices.

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