Innovative next-gen industrial wearable computer solution enhances productivity, reduces errors
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On June 30, 2016, Zebra Technologies introduced Total Wearable Solutions, a dedicated family of wearable technology components aimed at making hands-free, speech-directed scanning and picking more accurate, more comfortable, and more productive than ever before. In their own testing, Zebra found that their new multi-modal solution delivers a 15% productivity gain. In large warehouse operations that's huge. It means handling more orders more comfortably with less fatigue.
Below you can see the centerpiece of the solution, the new Android-based WT6000 wearable industrial computer.
Zebra's engineers and designers have many years of experience in creating wearable computing solutions (see their earlier WT41N0) based on the simple and logical conclusion that some jobs require both hands while still needing constant computer assistance. The approach includes a wrist-worn computer (scuba divers are familiar with the concept), a wireless headset, and a ring-style scanner, all communicating wirelessly and leaving both hands free to do whatever manual work is involved in the job. This is how the WT6000 is worn on the wrist:
The picture below shows the three main components of Zebra's Total Wearable Solution, the HS3100 Bluetooth headset on the left, the WT6000 wearable computer on the right, and below it the RS6000 Bluetooth ring scanner, which is one of several scanner options.
The (high) tech
As far as these components go, the WT6000 computer measures 4.7 x 3.5 x 0.7 inches and weighs 8.7 ounces. That's makes it smaller and lighter than Zebra's earlier wearables and pretty much anything else out there. The device is powered by a 1GHz quad-core processor, comes with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of flash storage, and uses Android 5.1 "Lollipop" (as opposed to the predecessor's Windows Embedded Compact 7.0).
The landscape-oriented display is a bright (400+ nits) transflective LCD with Gorilla Glass 3 protection that measures 3.2 inches diagonally and offers 800 x 480 pixel resolution. That translates into 292 pixels per inch and is in what Apple calls the "retina" range, i.e. this display is very, very sharp. The capacitive multi-touch screen can be operated via fingertips (both bare and gloved), a capacitive stylus, or via voice. The three standard Android keys (home, back, recent) use capacitive touch, and are complemented by three physical programmable keys.
The rechargeable Li-Ion battery packs 12 watt-hours and snaps into the long side of the device above the LCD. It is easily replaced and the WT6000 is hot-swappable va an integrated backup/bridge battery.
It's all in the wrist(mount)
Everyone's wrist is different, and that was an issue with earlier wrist mount wearables that relied on velcro or standard watchband technology. The WT6000 significantly improved on that with a wrist mount that uses a rubberized and ventable silicone sleeve with a strap tighten dial that's micro-adjustable quickly and easily for maximum confort. The computer then mounts onto that wrist sleeve via a cleat. A release lever allows for quick removal of the device without the need to also take off the wrist mount
Built to last
While warehouses aren't usually environmentally harsh working environments, Zebra made sure the WT6000 is more than tough enough to handle whatever abuse it may encounter. The device is sealed to IP65 specifications, which means it's totally dustproof and able to handle low-pressure water jets from all directions. It can survive four-foot drops and was subjected to 1,000 half-meter tumbles in tests. The -22 to 122 degree Fahrenheit operating temperature range makes it suitable for almost any job, indoors or out. A look inside the WT6000 reveals a heavy-duty magnesium-alloy chassis. This wearable is built to last.
Since the WT6000 is designed as part of an overall system of computer, headphones and scanners, pairing is super-simple with just a tap. The idea of having specialized headphones is to be able to use voice command systems such as Zebra's TekSpeech Pro 4 voice picking software. The idea of hands-free scanners is to be able to scan without actively holding something in your hands.
Scanners like the RS6000 Bluetooth ring scanner are designed to be worn on the back of the hand. The device uses the Zebra SE4750 short or medium range omni-directional 1D/2D imaging engine (see spec sheet. Another other ring scanner option is the RS4000 that's based on the SE965 1D standard range laser engine (see spec sheet). The WT6000 comes with the DataWedge application for decoding bar code data and displaying the bar code content.
Zebra WT6000: Hands-free mobility
According to a Zebra study, 72% of logistics professionals expect to use voice-directed picking solutions by 2020, up from just 30% in 2015. With comprehensive wearable solutions like the WT6000 wrist-mount computer, ring-style scanners, dedicated headsets and voice picking software to pull it all together, Zebra, with its many years of experience and leadership in wearable industrial computers, is in a good position to fill this emerging trend.