The Next Wearable Productivity Device Is…a Barcode Scanner?

10/09/2015 - 21:57

Kayla Matthews | @productibytes

The percentage of sales taking place online has more than doubled in the past 10 years, and that trend shows no signs of stopping. That means more products are being shipped out directly to customers. Large shipping centers can send out tens of thousands of packages every day, which means that saving just a few seconds per package can make a monumental difference in productivity.

To increase efficiency and allow employees to work faster, shipping warehouses may turn to a new piece of technology: A wearable barcode scanner.

New Technology for the Digital Age

The KDC Finger Trigger Glove is made by KOAMTAC, a company known for producing barcode scanners that transmit information via Bluetooth. The glove uses a small battery-powered barcode scanner worn on the back of the hand, allowing you to pick up and move boxes like you normally would while still wearing the device. The scanner pairs with a smartphone or tablet to display and manage information.

Using existing smartphones allows companies to avoid the high costs of purchasing dedicated devices for their scanners, especially if employees are already provided with a work phone. Smartphones can also synchronize and upload data automatically through existing networks, making it easy to access new data on demand.

In contrast, many shipping centers still use bulky old devices that can only connect with a PDA or computer running Windows. These scanners can also cost thousands of dollars. Companies often choose to repair old scanners through refurbishment services like DBK, since refurbishment is so much cheaper than buying all new equipment. However, the logistical advantages of wearable barcode scanners are already drawing in a few customers.

Small Improvements, Large Productivity Gains

With a handheld barcode scanner, you have to pick up the device, scan and put it down before lifting the box. The Finger Trigger Glove does away with the picking up and putting down part entirely, allowing you to quickly scan a barcode at any time.

A wearable scanner can also increase safety by ensuring both hands are free at all times, making it easier to react quickly to a mishap. With a smartphone carried in a case attached to an armband or wristband, you can take scans and access the information while remaining hands-free. Since the scanner has an internal battery, you don’t even need the bulky power pack some older scanners require.

This increase in mobility allows you to scan and move packages just a few seconds faster than you would otherwise be able to. It might not seem like a big difference, but those few seconds can really add up. Even if the wearable scanner only saves two seconds per package, a warehouse that handles 10,000 packages per day would save more than 27 man-hours per week.

Some companies have already begun using the Finger Trigger Glove. Three of the largest shipping carriers in Korea are currently using the wearable scanner in their warehouses and have reported improvements in safety and efficiency after adopting the device.

Wearable technology is set to become an increasingly important part of the shipping industry in coming years. Some companies are already looking at smart glasses as a way to provide a context-dependent readout of important information, as well as an immersive way to train new employees. However, unlike smart glasses, wearable barcode scanners are already being applied in real-life situations.

These devices could bridge the gap between the outdated technology most companies are currently using and this relatively new technology. It will be an interesting race to see if fully automated bots will replace the majority of workers before wearing these types of devices becomes the norm.