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Wearable Technology for Industry

28 Jun 2016

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The startup, Comma Technology Ltd, is focused on portable and wearable technology for logistics and manufacturing industries.

The Apple watch and Google glasses have made wearable technology hot products in the consumer market, and now HKU postgraduate students are carving a niche in this cutting-edge field.

Their startup, Comma Technology Ltd, is focused on portable and wearable technology for logistics and manufacturing industries that can track everything from goods in a warehouse to machine maintenance schedules. The possibilities also extend to fields such as healthcare (to facilitate caregivers in the hospital wards) and retailing (tracking items on the shopping malls).

"There has been a boom in wearable technology in the consumer field but it's not very well-developed in business-to-business," said Leon Kong, project leader and a PhD student at HKU. "We see opportunities and a demand for smart devices that can capture data and improve information communication and sharing.

"For example, in large manufacturing plants you still see staff using traditional pen and paper to keep records of machine status and sensory data like temperature and humidity. Or in warehouses you can see workers pushing a trolley with a computer to collect data that then has to be brought back to the computer centre. We’re working on devices that are cheaper and easier, and can be easily used for big-data analytics."

So far they have developed a smart pen that is fitted with a small inexpensive chip. This chip is customised to each firm's needs, so it captures only information essential to the operation at hand and feeds that back to the firm's central system. The chip works with RFID tags and barcodes and also can collect sensory data. The pen, priced at HK$2,500-$4,500 each, will have its first industrial application this spring.

The design philosophy of new wearable product - smart glove, has been tested in a warehouse where workers just had to pass their hand across the AutoID tags to collect and transmit information to the company's main system.

"We offer two innovations," Mr Kong said. "First we free the hands. Second we provide users with important information by managing the distractions. Everyone on our team has knowledge and experience in this field so we can provide a more tailor-made service. Our supervisor, Professor George Q. Huang, gives us strong guidance on technology innovation and application as well. Plus we are creative."

Comma placed highly in three major technology and innovation competitions in Mainland China, including a second-place finish against more than 1,780 competitors at the 7th Shenzhen Entrepreneurship and Innovation competition.

The firm has also won two rounds of HKU's Technology Start-up Support Scheme for Universities (TSSSU@HKU) funding and is applying for a third round (the maximum allowed under the fund), and it is finalising details for venture capital funding.

"Our vision is to provide enterprises with safe, efficient and friendly solutions for data collection, to bring the innovation of "wearables" into the industry sectors and to support the transition from Industry 2.0 to Industry 4.0.," Mr Kong said.

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