ProGlove: Smart Scanning Gloves for Industry 4.0
For Cemal M., it’s all about pictures: holiday shots, birthday photo books, and images printed on t-shirts, coffee cups or big canvases. Cemal works in the logistics department of a leading provider for photographic services in digital printing. While he applies the necessary care, he still works swiftly as he wraps items and then carefully puts them in a box to be shipped. To keep track of inventory and orders, each item and package has a barcode that requires scanning. Until recently, Cemal used standard pistol-like scanner, which resulted in the following workflow for each item:
1. Retrieve the item from the conveyer belt
2. Place it on the table
3. Retrieve the scanner and scan the barcode of the item
4. Place the scanner back into a holster-like apparatus next to the workstation
5. Pack the item into a box
As some orders require multiple items, this workflow was repeated multiple times for each order. Given the popularity of the business, this workflow had to be executed hundreds of times each day by employees like Cemal. Lately, this workflow has been replaced by three steps and a Spiderman-like move as the scanner is now integrated into Cemal’s gloves:
1. Retrieve the item from the conveyer belt and scan its barcode
2. Place it on the table
3. Pack the item in a box
With the help of the smart glove, created by industrial wearables startup ProGlove, Cemal can effortlessly scan items without picking the scanner up. This reduces the time required for handling each package by about four seconds. While this may sound negligible at first, in high frequency scanning environments, this adds up to a huge amount of time and thus significantly increases efficiency. ProGlove’s philosophy builds upon the pillar of putting the human worker at the center of everything the company does. This philosophy draws on the belief that a human centered approach allows for better business decisions because business is about real people.
“Our goal is to promote a smarter workforce,” says ProGlove’s Chief Executive Andreas Koenig, “Because we believe it needs to be an integral part of the digital systems throughout the entire supply chain.” This is why the company designed MARK, a smart, wearable family of products, and the ProGlove Cloud. Workers on the shop floors or in the warehouses use MARK to document process steps by scanning barcodes or taking pictures. This matchbox-sized device also provides worker guidance features such as a display to supply directions or the haptic, acoustic and optic alert to signal good and bad picks. This marks a dramatic shift for folks like Cemal who can now scan without handling bulky scanner pistols. Henry Fischer, Project lead for ProGlove at PosterXXL also states that “With ProGlove Mark and the ProGlove Cloud, we can operate more efficiently and flexibly. At the same time, we are gaining a better overview around our processes in real-time. With more data and the related visualization, we will be able to get even more insights.”
In addition to the efficiency gains, ProGlove will provide means to connect all data points to its soon-to-be-released cloud solution built on AWS. This will let users build a human digital twin as a replication of all human related workflows. The objective is to safeguard the human worker as the vital element of a digitized supply chain. The ProGlove Cloud will be designed to integrate with all ongoing processes and data, from ERP-, WMS, and wearable systems to identifying threats, bottlenecks, and reduce expenses. After sharing the vision of this new, cloud-based product with their AWS Account Manager and Solutions Architect, the two brought in their internal Prototyping Team, which helps customers build new products. During the six weeks engagement, the Prototyping Team supported the hands-on development and made sure that the product was built in a cost-efficient and scalable manner.
“Besides their exceptional technology, AWS has supported us in all stages of developing this product. Their account team dove deep into the details of our products and services, and their prototyping team offered recommendations that helped us build our first product. We estimate that this insight saved us 12 weeks of work, improved our solution and accelerated our go to market.” Keith Ball, VP Engineering at Proglove.
ProGlove uses a broad set of managed AWS services that allow their R&D teams to focus on the business logic and relieve them from the undifferentiated heavy-lifting for aspects like scalability, security or reliability: The MARK device securely connects to an Android device, which then forwards data about scans to AWS IoT Core. This service ensures secure transport of the data using MQTT and mutual authenticated TLS 1.2. From there, data is forwarded to various other AWS services like Amazon S3, Amazon DynamoDB and AWS Lambda for further processing and potentially triggering additional business processes, e.g., for alarming, or analytics, e.g., to check if there are products which are particularly difficult to scan. The AWS solution also encompasses DevOps aspects as the complete solution is hosted as Infrastructure-as-Code using AWS CloudFormation. This reduces the time to deploy a new version of the infrastructure and enables best practices like blue-green deployments.