In the movie RoboCop, a crime-fighter is restored to life through technology. According to a new study by Deloitte, many real-life workers will be kept "alive" in the workplace as a result of the next generation of wearables. You may think about wearables mainly in terms of fitness, but their value is now rapidly expanding to the workplace, helping people work longer and faster, and preventing injuries.

The workforce is aging and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2026, 37 percent of people aged 65 to 69 will be actively employed, versus 22 percent in 1996.

Big business is well on its way to "robotizing" its workforce. Companies like Ford, Lowe's, and Audi are already using exoskeletons -- bionic suits or extensions of human limbs -- to help people lift and reach. GE Aviation has  introduced smart glasses to their operations. Workers can get instant guidance, rather than having to check handbooks. Smart wrist wear is being worn by employees of Dayton Regional Transit Authority to monitor employee health. 

The travel industry is going robotic too, with Air New Zealand introducing voice wearables to provide instant translations, improving customer service.Customer service in any industry is an obvious area where robot-assisted humans can prevail. Being able to "see" and "diagnose" problems on-the-spot will save time and expense.

According to Capterra, 54 percent of  small businesses will soon be adapting these new technologies within the next year or two. Small Biz Trends cites that this movement will be led by millennials, with 71 percent of the people they surveyed reporting they would use tech to keep employees safe.

Some employees are still concerned about the "big brother" aspect of wearables, not wanting employers to monitor their performance and health data. But the benefits (cost savings, efficiency, reduced injury) seem to far outweigh the negatives.

As with all technologies, the cost of deployment will come down and small businesses will also be able to benefit from human enhancement. Work will be done faster and at a lower cost, injuries from manual labor will be reduced, customer service will be faster and more accurate, and experienced workers can be retained longer.

Manufacturing will be the first industry where robo-workers prevail. Deloitte cites that in manufacturing alone, 50 percent global enterprises plan to deploy these technologies by 2022. 

To quote the Deloitte study, "It's time for companies not already utilizing wearables to assess their potential and to rethink workforce planning in light of the impact these technologies can have. After all, what employer wouldn't want a workforce with superpowers?"

You take your reading glasses, smart phone and stepladder for granted. But soon you will be able to adapt a whole new range of "digital prosthetics" that will help you and your team work longer and with fewer mental and physical aches and pains. 

Published on: Jul 26, 2018