Wearables: The Biggest Change to the Auto Industry Since the Model T
Ronald Monte | April 19, 2018
The wearables market is taking off – entire companies centered around the technology have gone public and Silicon Valley giants are devoting product lines to it. Fortunately for consumers, current products on the market don’t even hint at the massive potential that wearables offer.
And one area with the most exciting prospects for wearable technology is the auto industry.
Generally speaking, there are two universes where this marriage of wearables and cars will change the landscape going forward: 1) design and production, and 2) retail and consumer use.
Design and production.
As far as actual production is concerned, this is where the potential gets exciting. VW uses smart glasses in production facilities that respond to voice control, allowing for hands-free operation while workers see tasks and to-dos in their field of vision.
No more looking down at manuals or lists of parts, or picking up scanners to make sure you’re assembling the right part: the barcode reader is built in, through the glasses’ camera feature.
Daimler is also putting wearables to use, using smart glasses for quality control inspections that ensure all the right parts are in all the right places. At the end of the day, it’s not like quality control wasn’t going on before – it’s just that wearables offer a far more efficient way to do that.
Also, there’s an exoskeleton product called the Chairless Chair that’s helping improve both production efficiency and worker safety and stress.
Many autoworkers in a car plant walk around from place to place and have to sit, squat or otherwise bend their knees to get into awkward positions many, many times a day. This wearable product is essentially a lightweight chair that snaps into action when they do that, helping ease stress, prevent pain, and speed up the production process. Audi and BMW have both tested the device at their factories.
Retail and use.
The Oculus Rift – and other devices like it – while useful for design and theoretical testing, can also easily be conceived as a device that will one day allow consumers to browse, test-drive and even buy the car of their dreams.
Even the physical dealer-centric model of the auto industry can be disrupted (for the better) by wearables. With a Google Glass-type product, car salesmen will be able to see a list of all the features of any particular car arming them all the details in an instant.
When it comes to more mainstream wearable products, several car companies have rolled out apps that help illustrate the true meaning of the “connected car.”
BMW made an Apple Watch app that allows owners of the i3 electric vehicle to check its battery status, driving range and also get notifications regarding the car’s servicing and inspection. Famously, Tesla also made an Apple Watch app that allows drivers to “summon” their cars from a nearby parking spot and drive itself to your location to pick you up.
All in all, wearables are making their way into the auto industry in a meaningful way. The tech promises to singlehandedly transform the way cars are manufactured, designed, sold and used.
Regardless of whether you’re in the auto industry or just a patron of it, wearables will be changing the game sooner rather than later.