MHI Solutions

Technology

Augmented Reality Smart Glasses

This Emerging Technology Making Inroads within Specific Supply Chain Processes

If seeing is believing, then manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities throughout the supply chain can expect to be taking a closer look at the latest wearable technology emerging as a viable competitive advantage in operations: smart glasses leveraging augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is a term often used interchangeably with virtual reality and mixed reality, but each means something different, says Dr. Randy Bradley, assistant professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College of Business.

“Augmented and mixed reality maintain an existing physical reality, but add a digital element to create a value-added mix of real and virtual,” he explains, “as opposed to virtual reality, which completely immerses the user in a computer-generated and simulated environment.”

More specifically, AR takes advantage of the wearer’s natural view of physical objects and perceptions of surrounding sounds, Bradley continues. “It then enhances them with an overlay of digital information—such as text or simulated screens—while enabling the reflection of both synthetic and natural light off the physical objects. Mixed reality brings virtual and real worlds together to create new environments with digital and physical objects and sounds, as well as their data, coexisting and interacting.”

Just as hand-held barcode scanners, voice-directed picking headsets and mobile devices—such as smart phones and tablets—enhanced worker mobility and productivity in a variety of areas, so too will AR smart glasses, says Ron Kubera, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at MHI member Lucas Systems.

“Within the four walls of operations, distribution centers across the board are adopting technologies that provide visual information to workers within current processes,” he says. “With the transition to Android operating systems as a mobile computing platform, we’ve already seen users adopt tablets, smart phones and watches in their operations. I think adoption of smart glasses is going to accelerate over the next 18 to 24 months because of the visual component they offer alongside other hands-free technologies, especially multi-lingual voice-direction and speech recognition.”

By Brian Reaves

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According to the recently released 2018 MHI Annual Industry Report, “Overcoming Barriers to NextGen Supply Chain Adoption,” eight out of ten survey respondents believe these supply chains will be the predominant model within just five years. However, the report found that the adoption of some of these technologies was slower than originally reported when MHI started the annual report in 2014. The report cites three top barriers to adoption of these technologies: 1. Making the business case for NextGen supply chain investments. 2. Tackling the supply chain skills gap and workforce shortage. 3. Building trust and security in digital, always-on supply chains. This issue of MHI Solutions focuses on the adoption of these digital solutions, from best practices in robotics and artificial intelligence to blockchain and innovations in last mile delivery.

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