Warehouse worker using a head-up display

A New Normal: Helping Essential Workers Through Head-Up Display Technologies

Written by Rich Ryan, CEO of Six15 Technologies

We are in the midst of great uncertainty. COVID-19 is interrupting the lives of billions across the globe, and with it the nature of the workplace. Most are mandated to work from home and limit their travel to only essential services. This has given rise to a multitude of remote workplace tools for the office worker. For instance, in the first week of U.S. shelter-in-place orders, downloads of the videoconferencing app Zoom surged to over 62 million downloads, more than 90% of its 2019 average. Other workplace communication tools, like Slack and Microsoft Teamshare, have seen similar spikes in downloads and utilization over the past month of quarantine.

But while the office worker has the luxury of remote work, many frontline workers do not. For those deemed essential, there is the constant uncertainty that comes with being required to go into the office. How do you know you aren’t spreading this virus to co-workers or family, or coming down with it yourself, especially with the difficulties in getting tested? For most of these affected workers, the best advice they hear is “wash your hands,” “wear a mask,” or even “good luck, and thank you.”

When we think of the essential worker, one who might not come to mind is the warehouse worker. People across the globe are participating in self-quarantine measures in an effort to help flatten the curve, leading many to online channels for their basic needs. To ensure supply chains can keep up with the demand of those office workers at home, the warehouse worker steps in, fulfilling the orders and facilitating the delivery of the goods that so many global citizens now depend on.

But what can be done to help these workers, besides a heartfelt message of appreciation, thanks, and, maybe, a monetary bonus?

Times of crisis force society to reexamine the current processes in place, and we should be doing the same for our warehouses. Just as office safety will return to a new normal in the post-coronavirus world, so too must warehouse worker safety. As with any crisis we need to learn from it and emerge better than before.

In the context of warehouse workers, the current pandemic serves as an opportunity to begin implementing the numerous AR and VR possibilities for safety purposes. To start, through intuitive heads-up displays (HUDs), warehouse workers can increase their efficiency, fulfilling more orders with greater ease. Several HUD options including Six15’s ST1 offer rapid deployment and easy integration, making these products ready-to-use out of the box – a necessity during these times of continuous change.

These technologies extend beyond the walls of a warehouse, though. The ability for utility workers to be managed remotely can coincide with utility companies’ adoption of AR and VR capabilities. Picture this: a tree falls down on top of electrical wires as a town of 20,000 loses power. With folks home-ridden, losing power, even for a few hours, can mean critical supplies of frozen goods going bad along with a host of psychological hurdles to overcome. Instead of a team of workers going out to the site together, risking infecting one another or coming into contact with an infected person, one worker can go out into the field. However, this worker is equipped with an AR-enabled HUD that is able to capture his field of vision and send it to a central command center, where management can oversee his work in real-time. This setup can not only help us get back to normal, but it facilitates social distancing for some of our most at-risk essential workers.

The solutions allow for better spacing and fewer employees on the floor or in work zones, thereby reducing exposure and helping in the fight against COVID-19 for those deemed essential. Couple fewer workers with the fact that most HUDs feature a hygienic design and warehouse workers can now keep up with the heightened demand for delivery.

The safety of essential workers is paramount. Not everyone is able to continue working from home, businesses need to be able to keep on operating, and basic human needs have to be met – and all depend on essential workers getting their jobs done in a safe and efficient manner. If technologies, such as AR and VR-enabled HUDs, exist that can make their jobs easier, allow for social distancing, and reduce the stress that is so heavily upon them, then as a society we owe it to the essential workers to offer them the tools they need.

In the midst of this tragedy, we have the opportunity to make all workers safer. Looking at the current technologies available today, we must envision a world where these ideas become the new normal – what better time to start than now.