Smart watches and other wearables: total surveillance or added safety?

Smart watches don’t just tell the time, they provide, as the name suggests, a variety of intelligent features. This article explains how they, and other connected wearables, can be usefully deployed in the world of work.

Quickly scan the latest news, check upcoming appointments, or read an important email during a meeting: smart watches can be useful tools in both our personal and professional lives. Typically, they are also directly connected to a smartphone, with data transferred by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

But these products do not only transmit data, they also capture it: special sensors, for instance, measure the number of steps you take and your blood pressure – and can then communicate this information to an end-device for analysis. For workplace use cases, they are typically linked to a cloud. This is the ideal basis for central data collection and evaluation. For example, heart-rate monitoring makes it possible to judge whether an employee is taking enough breaks or whether they are subject to excessive stress. However, critics suggest this form of data capture will lead to greater workplace surveillance. But if the company introduces smart watches and other wearable computers in a transparent way, both sides can benefit: working conditions can be improved and the cost-effectiveness of the business increased.

Safety first

With particularly strenuous or hazardous jobs, wearables can be a useful addition to personal protective equipment (PPE). Roofers, for example, who work at dangerous heights, can be automatically restrained thanks to integrated sensors in their safety harness* as soon as they move too close to an edge.

In intralogistics, too, these intelligent tools are making rapid inroads: an example is the interactive warning vest from Linde Material Handling. Ultra-broadband signals allow highly accurate determination of positions. So a forklift truck equipped with the Linde Safety Guard assistance system receives timely warning of the presence of a nearby pedestrian worker. And the vest wearer is alerted to the approaching vehicle by means of light, vibrations and sound – significantly increasing safety.

*German only

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