Smart exoskeletons take the strain

A pioneering exoskeleton developed by German Bionic – the Cray X  – has become the first connected asset from the Robot-as-a-Service (RaaS) provider and marks the first instance of a European manufacturer developing, producing and deploying smart exoskeletons for use in industrial production.
The Cray X, which is already been used successfully by major manufacturing and logistics firms worldwide, is designed to support and enhance the wearer’s movements, reducing the risk of accidents and excessive strain for employees. This is particularly important for verticals where human workers have to undertake repetitive and often unpredictable heavy lifting, such as in warehousing and industrial applications.
This type of exoskeleton has the potential to provide significant health benefits to industrial workers, with the World Health Organisation stating that musculoskeletal conditions are the biggest contributor to disability worldwide. The Cray X exoskeleton addresses this by supporting and enhancing the wearer’s movements, with sensors in the suit connecting to smart factory systems and software to further enhance health and safety.
“Robots needn’t replace humans – instead, we’ve shown how technology can mimic and amplify tasks which have traditionally been triggers for injury and chronic pain,” said Norma Hoeft, Head of IoT at German Bionic. “Simple management of the exoskeleton, as well as integration with legacy IT, will help improve health and safety and drive productivity for a growing number of global IoT firms.”
To ensure Cray X can be deployed, enhanced and managed by customers around the world, and in multiple locations, German Bionic needed a global connectivity partner and chose to work with communications enabler BICS, which is also supplying asset management capabilities.
German Bionic has embedded BICS’ SIM for Things cellular connectivity solution into Cray X, enabling global IoT connectivity for its suits.  The solution not only ensures data can be transmitted from sensors in the suit to smart factory systems and software wherever the suit is located, but also enables machine learning to analyse the user’s movements and automatically adjust to support individual user’s needs. Integration with existing back-end IT, smart factory and cloud-based management systems, means that employees’ lifting behaviour can be further analysed and businesses can identify where improvements should be made to avoid injury to their employees.
One of the advantages of using BICS’ SIM for Things is that it provides secure, reliable connectivity across 700 service provider networks in more than 200 countries, which means German Bionics can ship their exoskeletons anywhere in the world knowing that they can easily connect wherever they end up.
“Our SIM for Things can embed connectivity in almost any asset or device, equipping fleets of ‘things’ with intelligence, as well as those managing or wearing them,” commented Mikaël Schachne, CMO and VP Mobility & IoT Business at BICS. “Our latest partnership with German Bionic illustrates the breadth and scope of businesses BICS is working with, as well as the dynamic and adaptable nature of our SIM for Things solution.”
Omnisperience’s view
Too often technology is presented as a dystopian option: a risk to human jobs. What this use case shows is how technology can actually help humans be better at their jobs, reducing injuries and blending human skills with technology. This is important for health and safety compliance to keep our workforce healthy, but it has far wider benefits – reducing the strain on healthcare systems, for example, that are usually left to pick up the pieces when workers suffer injuries at work. Analysis of workers’ lifting behaviour means they can be trained to lift better (avoiding future injury) and early signs of injury can be addressed (for example, through physiotherapy) before injuries are made worse. This use case also shows how important ubiquitous and global connectivity is for many IoT applications, with solutions such as SIM for Things offering new sources of revenue for service providers worldwide.
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