Seth Patin introduces VIEW devices: visual input enabled wearable devices, a new class of input hardware that could revolutionize warehouse operations in the supply chain.
Imagine your Warehouse Management System (WMS) could SEE. Imagine your WMS could respond to what it saw and direct a user through visual and audio cues without occupying the user’s hands. Now imagine it could remember everything it ever saw and you could ask it to replay any point in time.
What is a VIEW Device?
It’s kind of an Orwellian concept, but with advances in augmented reality (AR) and big data analytics, the WMS of the future will effectively have sight and an infinite memory. How? With a new class of input hardware I have termed Visual Input Enabled Wearable (VIEW) devices.
A VIEW device is a small-scale, head mounted computer with:
- High definition camera
- Field of sight display
- Audio input and output
- Positional awareness sensors
- Wireless networking
When properly integrated with a WMS, VIEW devices have the potential to revolutionize warehouse operations by bringing a completely hands free and augmented reality directed user experience.
“When properly integrated with a WMS, VIEW devices have the potential to revolutionize warehouse operations by bringing a completely hands free and augmented reality directed user experience.”
– Seth Patin, President
This idea is certainly not new, but recent technological trends are bringing the ideas of futurists to life. Just this year, a white paper was published by DHL titled, Augmented Reality in Logistics – Changing the way we see logistics – a DHL perspective. In the paper, the authors postulate numerous uses for AR technology in logistics at all points in the supply chain, and they conclude it will not be long before this technology becomes reality. The technology is indeed maturing rapidly and most people have already heard of Google Glass, the most well-known VIEW device, but other companies are currently developing VIEW devices that are designed specifically for enterprise applications.
What could Visual Enabled Input Wearables do in Warehouses?
While advances in AR wearable technology are interesting, what does this mean for the future of WMS software? The answer is in what WMS software can do with VIEW devices. The WMS will not only know what work a user is supposed to be executing, but also where a user is located, what product they are holding, what product they are near, what physical obstacles surround them, and what other users are in the vicinity.
“The WMS will not only know what work a user is supposed to be executing, but also where a user is located, what product they are holding, what product they are near, what physical obstacles surround them, and what other users are in the vicinity.”
– Seth Patin, President
Leveraging AR technologies, a WMS will be able to direct users via AR visual cues by overlaying information into the user’s field of vision. The system will know where a user needs to go and be able to direct them via overlaid arrows and highlighting along the most efficient path to their destination. This will allow users to toggle seamlessly between the overlay and their surroundings.
Along the way, it will be able to determine if they are following the most efficient route prescribed by the system or whether they are deviating from that route, and if they deviate from the route, it will be able to record the reason they were forced to deviate. Once at the destination, users will be able to execute workflows in the WMS by simply looking at product as directed by the VIEW device.
Imagine picking a high-value serialized item by simply looking at the storage location barcode, looking at the product to be picked, and having the system isolate all barcodes on the box, catalog their meaning, and process a pick transaction with the correct part number, serial number, and storage location all without the user even taking their hands off the product.
Integrating Big Data Analysis and Augmented Reality Devices
Consider now the potential for applying big data analytics to the information provided by VIEW devices. The WMS will be able to store off video frames received from the VIEW device and tag each frame with every barcode seen in the frame.
Imagine the power of utilizing VIEW devices for a pharmaceutical operation where accuracy and traceability are paramount. If a serial number is missing, a manager could simply log on to the system and request it to display every frame in which the serial number in question is seen. The system would be able to cross-reference that serial number with every barcode it has ever seen and reconstruct the movement path of the product through the facility with video playback of every action a user took while interacting with that item. VIEW devices will take track and trace to a whole new level.
In addition to optimizing workflows and providing superior track and trace capabilities, VIEW devices will bring a new level of workforce accountability. Operations Management will have an unprecedented level of information about what activities their users are doing. Imagine being able to shadow a user remotely in real time and review the users movements through the facility during the course of their shift.
Imagine the efficiency that could be gained when a user is faced with a confusing inventory mix-up at a location, but instead of a supervisor walking half way across the warehouse, the supervisor could simply shadow the user and talk them through the questions using their VIEW devices.
Imagine a manager being able to walk the floor and simply look at a QR code on the side of a row of pick bins to get a real-time report of productivity in that pick face for the shift. Workforce management solutions will be supercharged by the information obtained with VIEW devices.
Illustrating the VIEW WMS Concept
Accelogix Labs developed a concept solution (un-cleverly named “Glasselogix”) utilizing Google Glass. We found that Glass is definitely not the best suited for this application and we have moved into development on different hardware, but its features still allow for a window into the future of the WMS user experience.
Update – In 2016, Accelogix partnered with LogistiVIEW to bring some of these features to the market in a solution that integrates with industry leading supply chain execution software to provide a next-generation user experience that will be accessible to any company with an interest in optimizing its user efficiency.
Learn more about our partnership with LogistiVIEW here.
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