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In case our article last month about Hilti’s wearable exoskeleton wasn’t enough to convince you that the future is now, meet RealWear: the new company bringing head-mounted Android-class tablet technology to industrial sectors around the world.

The HMT-1 and its Intrinsically Safe cousin, the HMT-1Z1 are rugged, hands-free devices that allow workers on industrial sites to communicate more effectively, and to work more safely and efficiently. The device offers visual assist, document navigation, industrial IoT visualization and digital workflow solutions, among other features and apps. And it is, if we’re being honest, way cooler-looking than Google Glass.

We spoke with Aaron Cohen, Director of Corporate Marketing at RealWear to find out more about these groundbreaking devices – the features they offer, how they can benefit industrial projects, and what exactly makes them so unique.

We’ve also asked two of our own Temporary Power Specialists to weigh in on how they see the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 being applied in Electrical Contracting work.

Made for the Real World

When augmented reality was hitting the market in 2014, there was more hype than follow-through. “People had websites but no product,” recalls Cohen. “It was a lot of smoke and mirrors.”

RealWear was determined to be different. “It was all about keeping it real,” says Cohen. “When we first started RealWear, people were cynical, but we delivered.”

And what they delivered was an industry-first: a fully ruggedized, hands-free tablet that is designed to function optimally at even the most challenging worksites.

The monocular device clips to the wearer’s hard hat (it is designed to be compatible with everything from helmets to ball caps) and displays the screen in front of their dominant eye, appearing as a 7 inch screen held at arm’s length would appear.

Despite their futuristic appearance, the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 are firmly rooted in the here and now. “Rather than positioning them as augmented reality,” explains Cohen, “I would position them as assisted reality. Because the devices are reality first, digital second.”

This distinction becomes important when workplace safety is at stake. “If you’re operating in a cramped crawl space or climbing a ladder, you don’t want any digital overlay over the reality of the world,” explains Cohen. “It’s just not safe. You have to have full situational awareness.”

 

RealWear Specs

 

And while the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 are sleek and high-tech, make no mistake, these are tough devices too, purpose-built for industrial work.

Rated at IP66 (one of the highest ratings for ruggedization), both devices are dust-proof, drop-proof and splash-proof. They also work in high noise — an unusual feature for a voice-activated device. Not only can they hear above the noise, but they can understand different accents, and even different languages.

“The HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 operate in over a dozen languages,” Explains Cohen. “All the major languages are covered. In fact, we just announced that they will be operable in Chinese in the near future.”

Cutting Edge Technology

The HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 are hands-free Android devices and can run many Android apps, which can then be easily optimized and enabled for voice. However, RealWear has partnered with over 150 software companies to optimize their apps for use with the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1.

The most notable of these custom-optimized apps are Microsoft Teams, which allows wearers to connect with others remotely, and Cisco Webex Expert on Demand, which offers a number of features, including the ability to annotate and draw on the screen, all using voice commands.

 

RealWear HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1

 

Perhaps one of the most widely-applicable features of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 is their high-resolution camera, which allows workers to take images and stream videos, all without using their hands.

“It’s basically a window into your world for the person at the laptop on the receiving end,” says Cohen. “That person could be 100 miles away at their house but they can actually see into the building you’re working on through your point of view camera.”

It’s a feature that’s not only functional, but pretty cool as well.

“You’re wearing this camera on your head that’s streaming live video to another person,” enthuses Cohen. That’s a killer app.”

Intrinsic Safety: What Sets the HMT-1Z1 Apart

“All of the software that works on the HMT-1 works on the HMT-1Z1,” explains Cohen. “You have the full configurability of the HMT-1 and it clips onto the same wide range of hard hats.”

So what makes the HMT-1Z1 different? Its intrinsic safety rating.

The HMT-1Z1 is fully sealed, with a non-removable battery, allowing it to be Atex Zone 1 and C1D1 certified.

This certification sets the HMT-1Z1 apart from any other wearable computer on the market. “There’s no other commercially available device that’s certified to go into areas where there’s explosive gas present in the air,” says Cohen. This distinction has made the HMT-1Z1 very popular with the oil and gas and mining industries, among others.

Why Electrical Contractors Should Take Note

While the safety features and durability of RealWear’s devices make them well-suited to many of the working environments that Electrical Contractors encounter, it’s the technology they contain that offers the most benefits.

In terms of convenience, the hands-free nature of the HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 mean never having to remove safety gloves or pause work that requires both hands in order to make a call or jot down a note.

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Dave Garcia

“This technology would make it easier when working in confined spaces to communicate with project engineers and get answers to questions in real time rather than submitting RFI’s that can take days to receive a response,” says Dave Garcia, a Senior Project Manager at Trinity Power. “Another area where I can see it being very useful is inspecting installations and equipment at heights,” he adds. “This technology helps to mitigate the risks involved in working in confined spaces and at heights by limiting the number of workers that would normally need to perform this work.”

 
Along with convenience and safety, efficiency is the true crowning achievement of these devices. Gone are the days of calling an off-site technician and attempting to describe the issue with a piece of equipment. With video streaming, the HMT-1 allows the wearer to show exactly what’s happening.

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Stephen Hanna

“I would have saved so much time in the field if I had this device with the blueprints loaded onto it,” says Stephen Hanna, another Project Manager at Trinity Power. “A huge issue that I found when working in the field was trying to carry around a package of drawings in the wind, rain or snow; I would end up leaving them in a building and making multiple trips back to keep looking at them.”

Hanna adds, “When a piece of highly technical equipment malfunctions on a job site or in the field, it would save so much time to be able to broadcast video of exactly what I am looking at to a manufacturer for expert analysis of the issue. Not to mention, with the device being hands free, it would make field work where many locations are tight, hard to reach, and exposed to the elements that much easier. When you have a large project, the overall time savings could be massive.”

 
Cohen estimates that businesses have saved in the hundreds of thousands of dollars due to being able to repair major equipment quickly, and avoid the travel costs associated with ferrying personnel from one location to another. Similarly, photo documentation of work completed is made more convenient, and easier to track, than ever before.

The HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1 may be small devices with even smaller screens, but it’s clear why they’ve been making big waves among industrial sector businesses. With these devices, seeing is believing.

To learn more about the HMT-1 or HMT-1Z1, visit realwear.com or email sales@realwear.com.
Units can be purchased directly from the website or from RealWear’s retail partners across North America.

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