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1/15/2016 4:09:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Trucking Tries on Wearable Technology

This story appears in the Jan. 11 print edition of iTECH, a supplement to Transport Topics.

The emergence of wearable technology, such as smartwatches, has given consumers a new way to communicate, track their health and process payments, but some fleets and technology suppliers believe these devices also can serve as valuable tools in trucking operations.

BEST OF JANUARY iTECH: More stories, columns

Wearable technologies can relay information to drivers without distracting them from the road ahead, detect and prevent fatigue and even enable them to monitor physiological data such as heart rate.

It remains to be seen how much the nascent market for wearables will grow. However, a number of trucking suppliers are making early investments in the technology, with some developing applications for consumer smartwatches and others offering headsets and even articles of clothing outfitted with sensors.

PeopleNet, for one, is developing software for the Apple Watch.

That software will take advantage of the smartwatch’s “haptic” feedback capability, which can alert the driver to a new dispatch or message by giving him or her a “tap” on the wrist.

By using an alert that doesn’t depend on the eyes, or even the ears, to get the driver’s attention, the technology avoids the potential distraction that would be caused if it forced drivers to divert their gaze, said Randy Boyles, senior vice president of mobile strategy at PeopleNet, which is part of Trimble.

The watch also can tap the driver’s wrist when he or she surpasses a set speed limit or improve navigation by providing a tap when the next turn is within a quarter-mile, for example.

“You can get data to the driver in a nonobtrusive way,” Boyles said. “If I’m using a phone, I have a tendency to want to look at that phone and see how much farther down the road I’m turning. With the watch, it’s just going to tap me to say, ‘Here’s the turn.’ ”

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By Dan Calabrese
Contributing Writer

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