I’ve been attending the Wearable Technology Show for a couple of years now and it’s been interesting to see the change in fabrics, yarns and threads. In particular, the conductive wires for LEDs have gone from being obvious to almost invisible. If the LED wasn’t powered up, it would be unnoticeable except close up.
The Advanced Textiles team at Nottingham Trent University in England were demonstrating some of their latest yarns and explaining how their research had helped create yarns with LEDs and other electronics inside. M-Nour from the team took me through their latest developments.
The basic idea is that by encapsulating small electronics within resin and connecting with very flexible wires, the yarn can be used in a wide range of fabrics and clothing without affecting the drape, wash-ability and durability.
Although LEDs are eye-catching, there’s much potential with sensors, such as socks with woven-in thermistors (temperature sensors) for people with diabetes, or gloves with accelerometers to measure vibration for workmen using pneumatic drills. There’s even the possibility to embed RFID chips for the tracking of clothing (and their wearer).
It’s all impressive stuff and I wonder what will be available next year.
Laser barcode scanners have revolutionised stock management and inventory processing in a wide range of industries and they’re ubiquitous at the supermarket checkout. Many of these scanners are handheld models that are constantly picked up and put down as needed, but ProGlove offers an alternative with the barcode scanner that’s fitted on the back of a glove. I chat with Aaron from ProGlove as the company brings to the scanner to the UK.
Even to someone who doesn’t work in this space, the benefits are obvious. A worker isn’t constantly picking up and putting down the scanner and the scanner comes with the worker without any thought; it doesn’t get left behind on a shelf. It’s ingenious and solves a couple of problems in one go. The scanner follows all the major standards and integrating the ProGlove scanner into an existing setup should be straightforward.
ProGlove have already worked with a number of big names – Audi, BMW, Skoda, John Deere, Bosch – so it looks like they’ve a good thing going here.
Much as the steam engine ushered in the Industrial Revolution, A.I. and intelligent machines will bring unimaginable change to the latter part of the 21st Century. Visionaries suggest that A.I. is more Pandora’s Box than Prometheus’ stolen fire, with many jobs likely to be consigned to the history books and it’s already clear that the transport industry is going to require far fewer people.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom though. Pushing back against the “A.I. equals job losses” trend, a recent study by Oneserve, a field service management company, suggests that UK-based manufacturing industries that take advantage of A.I. could boost productivity by the equivalent of nearly 7 days production per annum. That might not sound like much – it’s an increase of 2.5% – but when dealing with companies that turnover millions, it’s a healthy extra margin.
It’s still early days, though. The survey asked the management of manufacturing companies about A.I. and their responses were interesting. Of the senior business leaders consulted, 93% said their workforce would be more productive as a direct result of moving towards A.I.-enabled systems….but the research also found there is a concerning lack of understanding around A.I. in the industry. Seven out of ten (72%) senior decision makers who took part said A.I. is important to the future of manufacturing, yet 67% also said the benefits are not clear.
Ideally, there’s opportunities for A.I. to reduce machine downtime, manage resources efficiently, and improve customer relations, all based on historical data analysis rather than guesstimates. The attached infographic (courtesy Oneserve) shows the impact of machine downtime in manufacturing and while the infographic is an oversimplification of the impact, the problem is still significant. Let’s hope A.I. can help keep the machines running, increase productivity and keep people in jobs.