Consumer and Industrial IoT Merge at Bosch Assembly Plant

A control systems engineer has created a solution that uses the Pebble smart watch to alert assembly line workers regarding production faults, and says it has boosted productivity—and morale.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 22, 2016

At its plant in Anderson, S.C., Robert Bosch LLC manufactures oxygen sensors used in the automotive sector. Many of the steps in the process require manual assembly, and operators receive alerts whenever a fault occurs on the assembly line. A jam on a conveyor system would trigger an alert, for example. Such faults, if not fixed promptly, can force production to halt.

An automated system informs assembly operators of specific faults through audible alarms and red lights, as well as messages transmitted on large digital displays. But sometimes, if operators are engrossed in their work or have turned their attention to a specific task, such as a quality-control audit, they might miss an alert.

The plant has opted to utilize the Pebble smart watch.
Last April, Josh Lee, a senior control systems engineer at the Anderson plant, had an idea. Lee had been experimenting with various ways to improve the means by which operators receive alerts. "I had tried using iPhones to send them alerts, but they would put the phones in their pockets and, therefore, sometimes still missed alerts," he says. "Then it came to me: What if we used a smart watch? So I went to my bosses and said 'What do you think?' and they said Ttry it.'"

Lee began winnowing down the wide selection of smart watches available on the market, by establishing three main criteria: the watch needed to have a vibrate function, so that operators would not need to rely on visual or audio indicators; it needed to be lightweight; and it needed to be programmable, so that multiple smart watches could interface with a single iPhone. "I didn't want to have five iPhones mounted on each line to pair with five watches," he explains.

"Once I found a few models I wanted to try, I started watching video reviews on YouTube," Lee recalls. "YouTube was so full of reviews, I could watch them instead of going out and buying three or four different models."

Lee narrowed the available smart watches down to two models: The Pebble and the Apple Watch (which Apple began selling in April 2015). Price was the deciding factor, so he opted for the Pebble, which cost much less than Apple's offering.

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