Back to the Future: A Look at Today’s Wearables and IoT

By Jeff Schmitz | 11/07/2016 | 10:23 AM

The wearables we use today were once noted as science-fiction – at times showcased in a “Back to the Future” plot twist that defied the concept of widespread deployment. However, technology marches forward and technologies that were once portrayed as futuristic have come to life and are injecting some form of disruption into every industry. Enterprises are compelled to look at how they can deliver better results more efficiently and effectively using new technology, including wearables. 

The driving force behind this technology disruption is that enterprises now look to data for insight into their processes, helping them to identify opportunities to streamline operations, expand market share and spark ideas for new products. But what captures all of this data? There are many devices that live at the intersection of the physical and digital worlds, turning real-world information into insightful data, also known as Enterprise Asset Intelligence. And increasingly those devices include wearables. Straight from the wrist and hands of enterprise employees across industries, wearable devices are capturing vital information from the Internet of Things (IoT), and analytics software is making sense of it.

We have already seen wearable technology and IoT make a dramatic impact on the way workers operate in the warehouse, retail, transportation and logistics and manufacturing industries on a day-to-day basis. The increased emphasis on enterprise wearables for workers is changing back-end operations and helping to overcome tremendous business process challenges.

One of those business challenges is finding new ways to streamline and error-proof every aspect of order fulfilment and inventory management. According to the recent Zebra Vision Study, nearly half of all survey respondents indicated a concern about labor performance in the order, pick and fulfillment process. With wearable technology, warehouse workers are able to boost their productivity to new levels, minimizing scan frustration in the most challenging work environments. Additionally, hands-free and speech-directed picking devices increase user mobility, comfort and accuracy. By creating wearable devices with the end-user and worker in mind, new levels of productivity have been achieved and cycle times have been improved by integrated wearable technology that provides enhanced situational awareness and gives workers real-time access to critical data and video at the point of work.

By 2020, Zebra Vision Study respondents cited plans to make investments in the following processes and tools: equipping staff with technology (73 percent), bar code scanning (68 percent), tablets (66 percent) and the Internet of Things (62 percent). As IoT becomes more deeply engrained in all of our enterprise processes, wearable technology will become that much more valuable in helping employees to easily capture information. Current technologies will continue to evolve and revolutionize the way people instinctively work with devices and intuitively interact with their environments, making what once seemed like science fiction a reality.

The days of Marty McFly and his self-lacing shoes and hover boards are among us – and the manufacturing, warehouse and logistics industries are primed and ready to take advantage of IoT wearable technology to bring us back to the future with Enterprise Asset Intelligence.

The “Intelligent Enterprise” is Among Decade’s Most Impactful Trends

By Jeff Schmitz | 01/04/2017 | 11:19 AM

In 2016, Zebra explored the concept of the “Intelligent Enterprise,” an operational framework that helps to define how information passes from solutions to their handlers and how the data analyzed along the way provides actionable insights and visibility. In partnership with the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), we assembled 40 industry experts for the 2016 Innovation Symposium: The Intelligent Enterprise. Click here to discover how these thought leaders defined an “Intelligent Enterprise” and explored best practices and opportunities for organizations of varying sizes and industries.

When you think about the various industries that drive our world - including healthcare, transportation, logistics, manufacturing and retail - enterprises are already taking advantage of a new “intelligence” to make decisions in real time today. At the heart of the Intelligent Enterprise are sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, beacons and locationing solutions that, along with the rapid adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), offer enterprises real-time operational visibility.

Gartner predicts 6.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. But what does this explosive growth mean for the future and how can enterprises harness this intelligence to drive meaningful innovation?

The concept of the “Intelligent Enterprise” is about making businesses as smart and connected as the world that surrounds us. A sensor may seem like a small device, but when married with the troves of data and the ability to understand – and act – on it brings a big wave of technological innovation, creativity and new levels of intelligence to our world.

Engaging and leveraging the tremendous advances that IoT brings to enterprise solutions can be challenging. The answer lies in a framework that Zebra refers to as sense-analyze-act. Sensing data, analyzing it for insights and then mobilizing it to the right person to drive specific actions is fundamental to building an “Intelligent Enterprise”.

For example, to help advance retailers’ capabilities, Zebra is working with them to develop solutions to dramatically improve inventory accuracy levels, which is frequently a barrier to a successful omni-channel strategy. While our solutions enable automation, human interaction is still critical at many points in the fulfillment chain, and we are helping retailers with real-time visibility of inventory, efficient picking, staging and delivery to customers.

With smarter devices come smarter things and smarter environments, paving the way for enterprises across all industries to become more intelligent.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz

Jeff Schmitz is senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Zebra. Mr. Schmitz most recently served as executive vice president for multiple business units and sales at Spirent Communications where he had previously also held several senior leadership roles including chief marketing officer and vice president of networks & applications. Prior to joining Spirent, Mr. Schmitz held senior marketing positions at Rivulet Communications, Visual Networks and Tellabs Inc. Mr. Schmitz holds a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and a Master of Science degree in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology.


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