Applications and Services for the Mobile User and worker Why not wear your computer to work?
Wearing computers and computer-controlled devices in the workplace is becoming increasingly popular and is set to become commonplace.
Thanks in large part to work being done by European researchers, wearable computers – or simply ‘wearables’ – come in many forms. These include computers on a belt, spectacles with video displays and location devices stored in shoes.
The devices are all designed to make work easier, quicker and often safer for people in environments where using even a handheld computer is not a viable option.
Originally launched in 2004, the WearIT@work project, is now in its third phase and is still going strong. The project team has focused on developing a new paradigm for wearable mobile computing.
Researchers aim to support complex tasks with a minimum of human-machine interaction, allowing people to focus instead on their work environments.
Field testing prototypes
Initially, four different fields were chosen for pilot studies – healthcare, emergency response, aircraft maintenance, and production management and training. Having set up initial showcases for the projects, the researchers then developed and tested system prototypes, with the final stage being a full-scale industrial pilot.
In healthcare, WearIT@work set out to develop a system that would improve the availability of information in real time. The system also aims to improve communication, data sharing, data management and information documentation among healthcare professionals.
The prototype system is a textile integrated input device that is able to communicate with fixed infrastructure, such as bedside displays and portable devices. Users have access to all available patient information at any time and anywhere in the hospital.
Vision of the future
The researchers envisage a future when doctors and nurses will wear similar equipment everywhere they work, in surgeries and on home visits, as well as in hospitals. They also forecast that convalescents and the elderly will be equipped with wearables allowing medical staff to monitor and advise them.
For the emergency services pilot, which concentrated on fire services, the researchers had several different challenges to meet. They developed a navigation system prototype called LifeNet. The prototype gives a mission controller an exact location fix of everybody during a fire, and helps track them in real time as they move around.
Improved communications between individual fire fighters and with the control centre was achieved via a software component that creates ad-hoc networks using whatever systems happen to be available.Another software algorithm allows the fire fighters to control the wearable system through voice commands.
Aircraft maintenance vest
The maintenance pilot test involved equipping aircraft maintenance personnel with a vest integrated with a variety of wearable technologies. For the fourth pilot, workers on a car production line were given all of the information they required to perform production tasks.
Overall, the project resulted in a technological repository of hardware and software wearable solutions for an increasing number of workplace scenarios.
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Funding SchemeIP - Integrated Project
46741 Herzliya Piti'ach
21027 Ispra (Varese)
50059 Sovigliana - Vinci (Fi)
20063 Cernusco Sul Naviglio
3511 BK Utrecht
B18 6EW Birmingham