by Matthias Neuner

August 16, 2016

How can the car industry benefit from Wearables?

Recently, the car industry is using the full transformative potential of wearables in research projects and pilot programs. Wearable devices like smart glasses and smartwatches are mainly used to enhance the driver’s experience and improve safety. More specifically, Mercedes, BMW and Nissan have built special applications that monitor speed, fuel efficiency and even the driver’s fatigue level via heart rate sensors. In general there are three categories that wearable devices are used in the car industry. Beginning with the “Behind-The-Scenes Operations” (like the design process or the manufacturing assembly line), the employee and consumer interactions (like worker safety and automotive retail process) and, lastly, the costumer´s driving experience. However, new technology can assist in many ways. Big car makers see a big chance in optimizing the planning and building processes of cars. Today, BMW, Volkswagen, Tesla, Volvo and Ford are the market-leading companies for smart connected driving.

Last year, VW (Volkswagen), one of the the biggest German car makers, began rolling out smart glasses as standard equipment for their factory workers. With the help of smart glasses, workers were able to improve their day-to-day tasks by seeing a list in their right field of vision. The information provided includes part numbers and stored locations. Also, a special touch and voice control allows for efficient, hands-free operation. The embedded camera serves as a barcode reader ensuring that the correct parts are selected from around the factory. Similarly, Daimler has used smart glasses for quality control inspections on its assembly lines. Furthermore, BMW carried out a successful Google Glass pilot program at its plant in Spartanburg. The goal was intended to analyze the profit of smart glass technology for quality assurance in pre-series vehicle inspections.

A short while ago, Ford, the American automaker, opened a wearables research lab housed in Dearborn, Michigan. Here specialists examined the potential to link vital health information into vehicle technologies. In November 2015, Volvo and Microsoft announced their high-profile collaboration with the first automative application using HoloLens technology. HoloLens is the world´s first untethered holographic computer. Using HoloLens could redefine how costumers first encounter, explore and even buy cars. Now, both companies are delivering remote voice control for Volvo cars to jointly develop next generation automative technologies. At CES 2016 (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, Volvo introduced a voice control system which allows Ford drivers to talk to their car via Microsoft Band 2. It makes it possible for them to instruct their vehicle to perform tasks like setting the navigation or even the heater. Furthermore, Volvo drivers will be able to lock the doors or flash the lights via Volvo´s mobile app “Volvo on Call” when connected to a wearable device.

From now on, wearable tech will allow the car industry to enhance worker’s safety and the Automotive Retail Process. BMW, the German luxury automaker has supposedly tried out a new wearable device known as the Chairless Chair among its factory workers. Created by Swiss startup Noonee, this wearable lower-body exoskeleton is designed to provide seated support, comfort and flexibility for individuals working on manufacturing lines. It was constructed to diminish the physical stress of workers typically associated with the standing for long periods of time. The CEO and co-founder of Noonee, Keith Gunura, told CNN, “The idea came from wanting to sit anywhere and everywhere, and from working in a U.K. packaging factory when I was 17.” And the device itself only weighs about 4.5 pounds. So on the Chairless Chair is still a prototype which will be developed the next few years, but it has big potential to influence the car industry.

To sum up, the car industry is already influenced by wearable technology and connected smart IoT devices. In the next few years, this tech will blast off into the next big innovative market. Furthermore, car makers and drivers will benefit from the new developments in terms of safety and life-style happiness. It is exiting to learn which new innovations will be presented in the next few years..