Innovation

How industrial IoT maker APX Labs is teaming with GE and Boeing to put wearables to work

APX Labs has been named a top innovator by the World Economic Forum. The developer of the Skylight platform is working with enterprises on industrial wearables in manufacturing environments.

The Skylight platform from APX Labs enables manufacturing employees to access data hands free.
Image: APX Labs

The World Economic Forum announced today that APX Labs is one of its 2016 Tech Pioneers, showing the importance of wearables use in the enterprise, since APX is the developer of the Skylight platform for industrial use. This award is given to companies that demonstrate potential to make a substantial long-term impact on business and society. Previous recipients include Google (2001), Wikimedia (2007), Mozilla (2007), Kickstarter (2011) and Airbnb (2013).

APX was one of 30 organizations to receive the award this year. The winners were chosen from more than 600 nominations. Other companies receiving this award for 2016 include 24M Technologies, APATEQ, Formlabs, GlassPoint Solar, PrecisionHawk, Sigfox, Slack and WaterSmart Software.

"APX Labs is among those companies that help shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work and relate to one another," said Fulvia Montresor, head of Technology Pioneers at the World Economic Forum.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is often used to refer to the current tech breakthroughs that are speeding forth at a rate with no historical precedent and are transforming the way we live and work.

SEE: Can Samsung's $1.2 billion investment launch the era of 'human-centered' IoT?

"When you look at how many kind of look at and view the fourth industrial revolution, I think a lot of people kind of look at it with fear. They see automation and robots and technology and taking jobs and replacing the human element. We don't see it like that at all," said Jeff Jenkins, co-founder and CTO for APX Labs.

"We see technology like ours that pairs with wearable devices and new and exciting ways of interacting with

technology and computers and we see a truly connected workforce that's flexible. What we're finding with a lot of our customers is that the automation can't actually match it when you have human automation equipped with the same powers," Jenkins said.

GE Digital is a customer of APX Labs, using its Skylight platform and teaming with APX to support the GE Wearables Challenge, which is an internal GE competition to award funded pilots for wearable use cases.

"Delivering mission critical data, instructions and access to expertise 'on call' is valuable system-wide for GE. The use cases identified in the wearables challenge have broad applicability across GE, both inside plants and in the field," said Paul Boris, manufacturing industry leader for GE Digital.

Boris said the best uses of wearables in the enterprise include the following:

  • Real time views of the operations space, machine state, material priority, etc. Picture an operator entering a work cell and observing the real-time status of machines and materials to better assess how to proceed
  • Guided work instructions; assembly, repair, tear-down, etc; fed directly from the engineering systems and manufacturing execution systems
  • Expert on-call; over the shoulder support for the technician for all of the above scenarios
  • Remote witnessing; a variant of expert on-call, but where a customer or partner actually witnesses an activity deemed critical to the build or process

Boeing is another customer of APX Labs, using its Skylight platform to interface with its manufacturing execution system and work instructions with wearable devices, said Janelle Bernales, a spokesperson for Boeing.

"Skylight is an enabling platform that will enable the adoption of industrial wearables scalable for employees at Boeing. Boeing's production systems are complex, therefore accessing the backend can incur significant upfront development costs. Without Skylight, every different wearable device would face those costs. Skylight facilitates adaptability within the fast changing market," she explained.

Boeing benefits from wearables because they "will allow workers to easily access information whenever and wherever they need to be hands-free. Wearables feature camera and video capabilities, allowing for easy documentation of work and visual communication between connected workers. They are versatile productivity enablers that will be an integral tool of the modernized workforce," she said.

Boeing's best uses for wearables in the enterprise include the following, according to Bernales:

  • Complex low-volume processes that require frequent consultation and interfacing with reference systems
  • See what I see video streaming
  • Hands free work instructions
  • Capturing data and photos on the fly
  • Management system to assign work
  • Data analytics to track work progress

Jenkins said, "At the end of the day, any time we're counted amongst alumni who have been selected, companies like Google and Kickstarter and Airbnb, the companies we look up to, it's a huge honor and really exciting. We're just seeing so much momentum with our customers that are realizing actual benefits with the technology that it's an exciting time for us because we're in this really cool lifting mode where we can gather feedback from customers actually using this tech and continue to make our product better and tailor it to the use cases they're using."

Forrester Research also recently named APX Labs as one of the top five vendors in the augmented and virtual reality space.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Boeing and GE are two major manufacturers using industrial wearables.
  2. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is altering the way we live, work and relate to one another.
  3. Industrial wearables have multiple use case scenarios in the enterprise.

Also see

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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