January is a time when the tech industry heads to the CES show in Vegas and gauges what is going to be the next big thing. It doesn’t take much to realise that 2016 is going to be all about wearables. But it is interesting to note that the many journalists attending, including those from CNET, struggled to find applications for wearables beyond making us all that little bit fitter. This may well be a by-product of the season, making sensor driven tech an easier sell to the masses, but at Motorola Solutions our vision for wearables is firmly focussed on how they can be used to enhance the delivery of public safety.
With the sharp uptake of mobile devices, mobile broadband and cloud usage the impetus to deploy wearables, by which we mean connected computing devices, for public safety is very strong. But when it comes to their design there are a set of challenges that differentiate public safety needs from the consumer wearables that were everywhere at this year’s CES show.
Designing from a user experience perspective allows us to understand how the user both absorbs and understands information, and then uses that to make decisions. We see public safety wearables addressing two key opportunities. The first is situational awareness delivered across the entire team. The second is for the wearer, with systems that can understand the state of the user and their environment, making the wearer’s experience more personalised and appropriate to their needs at the time.
Imagine a police officer arriving at a crime scene. They exit their vehicle, draw their weapon and start running in pursuit of a felon. All of this data is automatically detected and fed to the control centre. But at this point, the last thing the officer on scene wants to be doing is pulling out a smart device and reading data. Rather, we would want to see that officer receiving critical information, in this case by audio or vibration, because we recognise that this can be understood by the officer when running.
For public safety the underlying mantra is ‘eyes up, hands-free’. The smaller form factor and connected nature of wearables will dramatically alter how first responders interface with technology, such as biometrics driving a simple traffic light system of green, amber or red, which would suggest if assistance is required.
Mission critical information will therefore be contextualised by the user’s activity and their environment. With any wearable interface, what we do not want is a first responder engaged with a screen when their focus needs to be on the potentially threatening environment that surrounds them. This is why voice will remain a core component of the personal wearable ecosystem for mission critical activities. As humans we are predicated to processing and instantly understanding vocal communications and commands, and then reacting. It is for this reason that voice is ingrained amongst mission critical users, and why it will remain a core element of the wearables ecosystem, vocalising alerts as well as being used to drive voice activated interfaces for the command of wearable devices.
By getting this right wearables can begin to augment reality for public safety officers.
Want to know more? A great example of this next generation of wearables is the Si series video speaker microphone featured in this video from PMRExpo.
Peta Spinks is Director, Customer Engagement, Europe & Africa at Motorola Solutions
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