Assisting factory workers, providing management with process information, ProGlove has set out to bring fundamental changes to the world of manufacturing with its connected gloves.

[Pioneers15] The connected glove, a wearable designed for industrial use

At first sight, it looks like a golf accessory. However the connected glove developed by German startup ProGlove, which was on show at the recent Pioneers Festival in Vienna, cannot be dismissed as a mere gadget. This wearable device incorporates a host of sensors plus an RFID chip, and records the movements of factory workers in factories and production plants. Those in charge of the production lines can then use the data to make improvements to the line, help avoid unnecessary repetition and thus save time.

This wearable has not however been designed just with a view to improving productivity. The idea is also to actually help the workers. The glove will for example alert a worker if s/he makes a potentially dangerous movement or when s/he is doing something which is having no effect. ‟We want to make the workplace more ergonomic and thus more efficient in terms of cost,” explains company founder Thomas Kirchner.

Thomas Kirchner’s startup took third prize at the 2014 Intel Make it Wearable Challenge

When you ask him why his fledgling company is focusing on the manufacturing sector, the ProGlove founder replies, half-jokingly: ‟Because it’s easier”. Behind the wry remark lies a reality which the Munich-based startup CEO points out: ‟There are very few startups that are focusing on the manufacturing world. Consequently, the sector has been very welcoming to us.” ProGlove is collaborating with a number of German auto makers, and seems to have aroused enthusiasm among these companies even though the product is not due for market launch until early 2016.‟We’re still at the prototype stage,” reveals Kirchner.

Meanwhile however ProGlove is however not the only wearable electronics developer seeking to enter the manufacturing sector. The holographic glasses being developed by Japanese firm Konica Minolta – also currently at the prototype stage – are designed to make it easier for workers, who do not always have their hands free, to communicate electronically. Kirchner points out that the main difference is that ‟these type of glasses provide wearers with information, whereas we’re trying to create a database of information on their work.” However, one question still remains to be answered as regards both these wearables initiatives: will factory workers be happy to adopt these technologies, given that they are going to require some considerable changes in the way they do things?

By Guillaume Scifo