Posted: 31 Aug. 2022 5 min. read

The power and the promise of wearable cognitive assistance

A blog post by Arpan Tiwari, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Myke Miller, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP; Manish Rajendran, specialist leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP; and Mahadev Satyanarayanan, Carnegie Group University Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University & Deloitte Cloud Institute Fellow.


Imagine a scenario where an aircraft, loaded with passengers and near takeoff, has to abort because of an uncommon mechanical problem. There’s no expert technician physically available at the airport. The result? Stranded, angry passengers and lost flight revenue.


Now imagine that same scenario, but with an onsite mechanic who puts on a mixed-reality headset loaded with a task-specific application that uses artificial intelligence (AI), sensors, cameras, and fast wireless access to help with the repair. On standby at a remote site is a human expert to help, if needed. The mechanic completes the repair, and software in the headset verifies that it’s correct. The flight takes off just 30 minutes late but infinitely safer for those on board.


That’s the future that’s possible with wearable cognitive assistance (WCA)—wearable devices that are fused with computer vision and edge computing, enabling advanced human interactions with the world to solve complex real-world problems. What separates WCA devices from other wearable devices is that WCA uses AI-enabled, task-specific software that guides the user step by step, verifies that the work has been correctly completed, and can connect to live human experts for assistance, if necessary. If needed for compliance reasons, the session can be logged and archived, thus preserving the video, audio, and other sensor data for future review and analysis.


Via a low-latency wireless connection to an edge computing infrastructure, WCA devices integrate image capture, processing, sensing, and communication capabilities, and AI-infused software interprets the scene in real time. The devices also provide guidance to users while they’re completing complex repairs and upkeep tasks—much like how GPS navigation systems guide drivers with route maps, road conditions, and alternative options.


Emerging potential for enterprise wearables

Wearable cognitive assistance will be particularly beneficial to businesses via its impact on workforce productivity. Workers such as repair technicians, onsite construction inspectors, and clinical technicians, just to name a few, will be able to do their jobs more effectively with WCA. There are other advantages as well:

  • The lack of expert technical specialists at manufacturing sites can halt production if repairs to critical machines are needed. A WCA device can walk a mechanic through a repair, verify that it’s correct, and connect to live experts for additional assistance, if needed.
  • Wearable devices allow users to interact with information hands-free and in ways that are comfortable in tight spaces. Consequently, WCA can help improve human safety while enhancing quality and efficiency. 
  • The perennial shortage of skilled technology workers and high compensation rates often make it difficult to find qualified technicians to perform complex maintenance tasks, especially for large or non-local sites. Wearable cognitive assistance can help companies enhance and extend the capabilities of human technicians—saving time and money.


Challenges in employing wearable cognitive assistance

Despite its potential, there are challenges to implementing WCA: 

  • Because it’s relatively new, WCA software standards are few, and off-the-shelf solutions aren’t available yet.
  • Wi-Fi and private 5G deployments with edge computing can offer low latency indoors, or at specific outdoor locations, broader mobile-outdoor use cases will require expanded 5G coverage from telcos.
  • WCA technology still has cybersecurity and privacy issues that must be addressed before its widespread use.
  • Software tools are needed to simplify and speed up the development of task-specific WCA apps.


Navigating what’s next for wearable cognitive assistance

Development and implementation of WCA can be challenging. To start, organizations can establish guidelines to identify viable wearable cognitive assistance use cases and acquire platform-as-a-service capabilities to host, orchestrate, and manage the WCA ecosystem. An agile mindset with teams that can seamlessly guide the entire process is also essential. Adopting WCA is a complex journey, but the advantages can be exponential and will extend to businesses, employees, and customers.


For more information, read our full article, “Trying on wearable cognitive assistance: How a new breed of enterprise wearable technologies can help boost human cognition—and efficiencies—in the workplace.”

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Arpan Tiwari

Arpan Tiwari

Managing Director | Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT)

Arpan is a managing director in Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) practice. He has served TMT clients globally, helping them establish greenfield businesses, as well as transforming/ scaling existing operations. He is a key leader at Deloitte in the 5G and Edge Computing space and is driving related alliances and ecosystems activity.

Myke Miller

Myke Miller

Consulting Managing Director | Cloud Engineering

Myke is a managing director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and dean of the Deloitte Cloud Institute. As the dean of Deloitte’s Cloud Institute, Myke is tasked with delivering an innovative, curated and collaborative learning experience, focused on key cloud roles to differentiate Deloitte’s workforce in the cloud era. As part of the Deloitte Cloud Engineering Group, we help clients to transform legacy infrastructure into an innovative and secure platform for business growth. Additionally, Myke works with Deloitte’s Energy, Resources, & Industrials clients to enable their cloud transformation journey. With more than 30 years of experience in accelerating the adoption of innovation and automation of infrastructure, Myke's specialties include: AWS, GCP, Azure, hybrid cloud, network virtualization, software defined networks, predictive network, Federated Security models, AIOps, Multi-Cloud and infrastructure operations management.