DirectIndustry e-Magazine - #40 – AUGMENTED WORKER - DirectIndustry e-Magazine

Who is the Tech-Augmented Worker of the Future?

Dear Readers,


Who is worker 4.0? This question is becoming essential today as smart robots and artificial intelligence are entering the workforce, making many worry about the future of human operators.


But despite widespread fears, embracing Industry 4.0 does not necessarily mean the end of the human worker. On the contrary, worker 4.0 is turning into an enhanced operator. Find out in our story and short infographic video how people remain at the centre of business operations.


In this edition, we study how our workplace is about to be augmented. AR and VR are becoming powerful tools for a wide range of industries. If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, our story full of concrete case studies could make you change your mind!


In this e-magazine you can also read our coverage of LogiMAT, the international fair for intralogistics solutions and process management that took place in Stuttgart, Germany a few weeks ago.


Happy Reading


Camille Rustici, Editor-in-Chief

Fullpage Hirose Electric
For companies embracing Industry 4.0, people remain at the centre of their business operations.

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Driven by automation and connectivity, the rise of Industry 4.0 will inevitably change how we work. But contrary to widespread fears, it doesn’t mean the end of the human worker. For many companies embracing the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, people remain at the centre of their business operations....

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Who is the tech-augmented worker of the factory of the future? An enhanced worker who wears an exoskeleton to reduce the physical burden of certain tasks. A virtual worker who wears AR glasses and a VR headset to work hands-free and simulate tasks. A collaborative worker who safely works hand-in-hand with cage-free...

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Your workplace is about to be augmented – or maybe even turn virtual. AR and VR are becoming powerful tools for a wide range of industries as they increase productivity and save time.   AR smart glasses allow users to superimpose graphics, video or text onto the real world, right in front of your eyes. For industry,...

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  • AI, Blockchain and cognitive systems were some of the major themes highlighted at LogiMAT, the international fair for intralogistics solutions and process management that took place in Stuttgart a few weeks ago. We chose to focus on 3 new products. Here is our selection.


    An RFID System Using Blockchain Tech

    Blockchain is the new magic word in logistics” wrote the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in a press release prior to the show. And it could enhance data management in supply chain automation and logistics processes. At the fair, the German institute showcased their wireless RFID sensor system that can be integrated into a blockchain network within the supply chain. When goods or raw materials are equipped with Fraunhofer IPMS RFID transponders, all sorts of information (temperature, location, moisture) is made available as the goods move through the supply chain. And it is the management of this information that blockchain technology is going to improve. Blockchain technology makes the whole supply chain transparent, allowing for a reliable, traceable and secure source of product information. In a blockchain, data is stored in different blocks and distributed only to the network members via an encrypted system. Applied to the supply chain, this means the information about the goods can be securely exchanged between the participants of the supply chain network, making it easier to operate. This kind of system also accelerates transport and shipping and could help better prevent fraud and errors.

    An AI-Powered Butler for End-to-End Supply Chain Automation

    Robotics company GreyOrange wants to take supply chains to the next level. At the German fair, the company launched its new goods-to-person Butler XL designed for automated inventory storage, picking and combining orders in fulfilment houses and manufacturing facilities. Butler XL is able to handle different loads (finished goods and raw materials) for a maximum payload of 1,600 kg and can autonomously navigate inside a facility. Powered by artificial intelligence, it can adapt in real time to changes in inventory orders. Minimal supervision is needed as the robotic system uses an in-house software platform that connects people, processes and technology through AI for more efficient warehouse operations.

    Machines That See and Think

    Image processing has become essential in automation today as machine vision systems control production lines and autonomous vehicles navigate inside factories thanks to 3D image processing technologies. Imaging specialist FRAMOS presented new cognitive systems powered by Intel RealSense that give intelligence and sensing ability to machines. When integrated into a device, the RealSense components allow it to understand and interact with its environment. Equipped with a camera that provides 3D depth sensing capabilities, the machine has a more realistic view of the environment and can therefore better map and navigate the world. Drones, robots and other autonomous mobile products navigating inside factories for logistics purposes could harness this 3D sensing technology.

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    Last December, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to end net neutrality. Internet service providers (ISPs) can now slow down Internet speed for certain websites and charge companies to prioritize their traffic in “fast lanes”. For experts, throttling Internet speeds could not only lead to unfair competition but also stifle innovation in autonomous vehicles, IoT and cryptocurrencies.


    Jeremy Gillula is senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an ardent supporter of net neutrality.

    You could come up with a killer idea that can save society, but if you have to go to each Internet provider and ask them to let your traffic go through, you’ll be at an unfair disadvantage if you don’t pay for fast speed. That’s a danger to innovation.

    ISPs on the other hand argue that this will allow them to invest in better infrastructure leading to faster Internet for everyone.

    Venkatesh Narayanamurti, IT professor at Harvard School of Engineering  explains:

    It could be good because the US lags behind many European and Asian countries when it comes to high-speed Internet. However, while dominant companies like Netflix and Amazon will be able to pay for it, how will smaller companies?

    Self-Driving Cars

    Service provider Comcast believes net neutrality should be repealed, stating that ISPs could prioritize instant communication to make self-driving cars safer. However, though autonomous vehicles will generate terabytes of data every day, industry experts point out that most of the data is being processed in the vehicle itself—otherwise a spotty reception could cause accidents.

    According to Gillula,

    For safety reasons you don’t want autonomous vehicles to be on the Internet so someone can scan and detect them. You want them to be on their own dedicated network. And in that case you don’t have to worry about net neutrality rules applying.

    Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication typically uses a bandwidth called DSRC to exchange data wirelessly between cars and their surroundings. Several car manufacturers such as General Motors, Toyota and Renault are either already using it or will do so soon. If ISPs gain control of the unlicensed spectrum that DSRC runs on, as they’ve expressed interest in, they could then decide to block V2V communication, slow it down unless they’re being paid or decide to use the spectrum for something entirely different.

    Internet of Things

    As more and more of our devices become smart and connected to the Internet, ISPs could decide to slow down the use of specific home gadgets.

    Comcast has announced it is working on its own smart home platform. For Gillula, it would clearly have an incentive to prioritize its own gadgets over those of competitors.

    If you have a new product and all of a sudden Comcast decides that it wants to discriminate against a certain type of traffic, then suddenly your IoT device might not work anymore.

    In the grand scheme of things, the amount of data that IoT devices transmit is minuscule and isn’t being transferred over the Internet but rather on private networks. For Alfonso Velosa, IoT analyst for Gartner, the biggest issue would be if the volume of data grows rapidly.

    Right now there are few enterprises that have more than 1,000 IoT devices, but moving forward it could be in the tens of thousands and that’s where the volume of data could impact it.


    The future popularity of cryptocurrencies will decide how much of an impact the repeal of net neutrality will have. If digital assets take off they will generate more traffic which give ISPs an incentive to charge for faster transactions, and decide to ban access to crypto exchanges. Cryptocurrencies rely on peer-to-peer transactions and ISPs have a history of blocking traffic for sites like BitTorrent.

    Gillula states:

    ISPs like Comcast and AT&T won’t do that, but a local Internet provider could decide to limit access to the dark web. And if you live in an area where that’s the only provider, you don’t have much of a recourse.

    The different cryptocurrencies exchanges could also be forced to pay for faster Internet to handle large quantities of transactions. That could lead to decide which cryptocurrencies succeed and which die.

    For Martin von Haller Grønbaek, IT lawyer for Bird & Bird specializing in blockchain technology, there could be a silver lining.

    If traffic is slowed down because cryptocurrencies are not paying for priority, it would have a negative effect. On the other hand, it could also give them an incentive to create alternative systems.

    It’s that kind of innovation that have put cryptocurrencies on the map anyway.


    Camille Rustici

    Camille Rustici is a Video Journalist and the Editor-in-Chief for DirectIndustry e-magazine. She has years of experience in business issues for various media including France 24, Associated Press, Radio France…

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    Sole Møller

    Sole Møller is a Danish freelance journalist based in San Fransisco. He writes about new technologies and contributes to several publications including DirectIndustry e-magazine.

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    Daniel Allen

    Daniel Allen is a writer and a photographer. His work has featured in numerous publications, including CNN, BBC, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, Discovery Channel.

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    Monica Hutchings

    Monica Hutchings is a Canadian writer and translator from Toronto who has worked on everything from technical descriptions to academic journals. She is our copy-editor and our in-house DirectIndustry English translator.

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