Wearable technologies are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) that are helping more companies with large numbers of people spread across the globe to stay connected, while improving safety, productivity and efficiency.  

“Although this technology is still in the early stages of development, these devices can provide significant benefits to the transportation industry,” said Bart De Muynck, research director at Gartner. “The biggest benefit of wearables, whether smartwatches, wearable clothing or any other combination of devices used, is the ability they bring to allow the wearer to access data from anywhere. These devices can bring significant advantages in the areas of driver performance, driver safety and security, and driver health.”

Take hours of service (HOS) rules, for example, which limit how many hours a driver can work, but not what the driver does in his free time and how this affects fatigue. Wearable devices that track activity both in and outside of work have the potential to significantly reduce the number of fatigue-related accidents on roads.

In addition to fatigue management, wearables may solve some other issues, including:

  • Driver performance Wearables can be used to better communicate critical events to drivers without them having to take their eyes off the road. They can also be used to rate a driver’s performance against his or her peers. Apps can track information from the truck’s telematics system, such as instances of hard acceleration, harsh braking and on-time arrivals.
  • Vehicle safety/security – Features from wearables allow a smartwatch to work with a vehicle’s telematics system data to provide vibration-based danger alerts to a driver about to make a lane change, with a car in his or her blind spot. The watch similarly could send a vibration/auditory alert if a truck or trailer door is opened while the driver is parked and resting for the night, signaling a possible break-in.
  • Personal health/safety – In addition to vibration alerts or warnings, smartwatches could feature onscreen “buttons” a trucker could tap to alert the back office or even call 911. A smartwatch also could issue a distress call without any driver input. If a driver were to pass out or fall while making a delivery, the watch’s accelerometer could detect the force and sudden change.

The high cost of smart wearable devices remains one of the major challenges to this technology, together with data privacy and security issues. Nevertheless, as sales and usage of wearables continues to grow, and the range of enterprise applications continues to broaden, companies should look at how these wearable devices could provide benefits in the area of transportation.

Bart De Muynck is a research director with Gartner, Inc. He conducts research in the supply chain area focused on the delivery processes: transportation planning, transportation execution, freight payment, analytics, yard management, vehicle routing and scheduling, and fleet telematics.