It might sound like something you would associate with James Bond or Inspector Gadget but existing computer and communication technologies are converging into single, lightweight, wearable devices.
The emerging technology is helping workers move freely and scan data, as well as access critical information remotely in real time. They can input data, file reports, access information and communicate with customers or colleagues.
Wearable computers give resellers an alternative to traditional mobile computing devices. Vertical opportunities include telecommunications, distribution, manufacturing, military, government and healthcare. These industries use specific applications and are highly mobile. Symbol Technologies reseller, SkyWire, is pitching wearable computing technology to distribution environments and is also looking to generate interest in the manufacturing sector, according to sales director, James Shepherd.
The system integrator deploys, manages and supports complex wireless mobility systems in harsh enterprise environments across selected markets. "The hands-free operation is useful in environments where product is moving quickly, productivity is of the utmost importance, and analysis needs to be done by the logistics manager," Shepherd said.
The market got a boost recently with the adoption of Microsoft Windows CE, Shepherd said, which signalled a move away from DOS and was a real turning point for the technology.
"The Microsoft platform boosts processor speed, runs voice and enables multiple applications," he said. "Software providers can develop heavier applications to go on the terminal." Wearable computers with voice applications are hot at the moment, he said.
"We can now communicate with other operators for picking and receiving. It has become a general purpose device used across other applications," Shepherd said.
But more work needed to be done on the software front before it could move to other verticals and hit mainstream markets, he said. Top issues included power management and heat dissipation, software architectures, wireless and personal area networks and sensor networks.
Symbol Technologies consulting system engineer, Wayne Harper, agreed voice-directed functionality was a big topic of discussion in the wearable market. "The adoption is far exceeding where it's ever been before, and it's the voice aspect that started to change the market," he said. "Before it was seen as nice to have but now it's a value add."