Logistics Offers Opportunities to Use Wearable Devices

By Valerie Insinna
As the aerospace industry more widely adopts wearable devices such as Google Glass, it’s likely the Defense Department and military services will follow close on its heels, predicted the head of product management for IFS Aerospace and Defense. 

“I’ve seen a lot of hardware providers create the ruggedized devices that we tend to see in defense and aerospace, Brendan Viggers told National Defense. His employer, IFS, is a United Kingdom-based company that specializes in enterprise software and logistics for defense and other industries. “These are devices that can be dropped, can get wet, can work in humid or hot conditions. Those are available off the shelf today.”

Japan Airlines, for one, is employing Glass for airplane inspections, he said. Engineers on the tarmac will wear the devices to transmit imagery to maintenance specialists.

Maintenance and logistics are also prime areas for the military to begin integrating wearable technologies, Viggers added. For example, a worker in a warehouse could use a wrist-mounted device with a touch screen and a barcode reader embedded on a finger scanner to count stock and do quality inspections. “He can literally scan his finger across the barcode and that goes to a screen that’s on his wrist,” he said.

This would not only cut down the time taken to complete a task, but it could also improve accuracy, Viggers said. “You’re not doing paper-based records anymore, you’re recording what you’re doing electronically straight away on the asset.”

Wearables could also facilitate maintenance by providing reference materials, instructions and a way to communicate with technicians who would guide a user through a repair, he said.

One potential problem is that many commercial wearable devices employ the same operating systems as smartphones, and each has drawbacks, he said. For instance, some Apple components are manufactured in China, which can make the Defense Department nervous about potential cyber security risks.

It will take longer for wearable devices to be deployed on battlefields because of network connectivity challenges and concerns about information overload, Viggers said. An initial application could be to outfit troops with wearable touch screens on their wrists that disperse specific information dealing with whatever task is at hand. Later on, troops could be equipped with more immersive devices that present a greater amount of information.

“You think of pilots with their helmets now, they’ve got so much information within the device that they’re wearing,” he said. “You can give a soldier on the ground the same type of technology, a helmet with a screen inside of it.”

Topics: Infotech, Virtualization

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