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

With the Pebble watch in hand, Lee began programming an interface between the iPhone and the computer system that controls the assembly line and its fault messaging system, which is triggered through optical and other types of sensors mounted in the assembly area. He then learned how to interface multiple Pebble smart watches to a single iPhone via a Bluetooth connection. The entire process took roughly three weeks to complete, he reports.

To date, Lee has issued 12 Pebble watches to operators at the plant, who work on four different lines. Lee can pair up to five watches to a single iPhone, and the Bluetooth radios in the watches reliably connect to a phone located as far as 60 feet away, which means he needs only one iPhone per assembly line. "I can't speak for the range you'd get in a different plant," he adds, noting that the RF environment at other factories might generate greater interference.

Lee has issued 12 Pebble watches to date to operators working at the facility.
But the crux move has been obtaining buy-in from the assembly operators. "Some operators love it more than others, but in general, they do very much enjoy wearing the watch and it's helping them be more productive," Lee states. "I just recently rolled out the system to the fourth line, and everyone said one of the operators on that line would be my toughest nut to crack. I gave her the watch and said 'Give it two hours'. Two hours later, she was sold."

What's more, this once-skeptical operator now collaborates with Lee to determine what types of alerts are most important to send via the smart watch, and how to phrase the text messages that accompany the vibratory alerts received by the wearer.

As for the impact the smart watches are having on the plant's uptime and productivity, Lee says he does not yet have hard data. However, he feels confident that the watches have paid dividends.

"The operators are telling us that the watches have made their jobs easier," Lee says, adding that he believes the watches are leading to operators responding more quickly to faults. When a fault occurs, there is a buffer of time before the line will stop running. While the smart watches may not be eliminating all instances of a line stoppage, Lee estimates that the system has reduced the length of each line stoppage by roughly 80 percent.

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