RealTime IT News

Wearable, Wireless Chic

In a marriage of wearable computers and mobile technologies, Xybernaut Thursday said it will team with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to research and develop wearable computing solutions for the IT consulting firm's existing and potential clients.

The agreement marks the second major partnership in as many years for Fairfax, Va.-based Xybernaut, which last summer partnered with Tactical Survey Group, Inc., to develop similar technologies in this space. Xybernaut also announced last month that it had received a $510,000 contract from the U.S. Department of Defense for wearable computing hardware that will be used by Air Force, Army, and National Guard personnel for maintenance activities.

Under the new relationship with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Xybernaut has sent wearable computer units to the Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Mobile Solution Center for integration with some of the company's pre-existing wireless networking and mobile workforce solutions. The Xybernaut units feature the company's open-source Atigo technology, which incorporates real-time access to critical information, including data such as detailed merchandise specifications, competitive product analysis and warranty/service offerings.

"Xybernaut is a recognized market leader in wearable computing, and we believe that this joint initiative will produce results that are immediately quantifiable on our customers' balance sheets," said Frank Smith, a vice president at New York City-based Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. "Benefits from mobile/wearable computing are already being realized by many of our large enterprise customers in the broad categories of field services and field workforce automation."

Though Xybernaut officials were not immediately available for comment on the relationship, according to Smith, a select group of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young customers already have worn Xybernaut units in the workplace. The units are PC-equivalent computers that support open source and industry standard protocols, such as wireless communications, advanced operating systems, and peripheral devices. The customers who have used the devices have worn them on their bodies at the points where information is necessary to perform business operations.

At American Trans Air (ATA) in Indianapolis, Ind., for example, customers have reorganized their aircraft maintenance and repair procedures around Xybernaut devices. At the airline's primary maintenance facility, Kevin Allen, information services systems engineer explained that the mobile and wireless technology has enabled ATA mechanics to gather data and turn-around knowledge more quickly and efficiently than ever before. Rather than compiling this data by hand, Allen noted that mechanics now organize it all automatically, with the help of a wearable device.

"Our ability to be competitive is directly related to aircraft reliability and the efficiency of our technical teams," Allen said. "[With the] Xybernaut devices, we have realized tangible results in several key areas of our operations."

Allen's experience with the Xybernaut technology is not unique; a recent IDC report by analyst Richard Dean indicates that wearable computing will take on a "more prominent role in the mobile communications and computing mainstream."

In the report, Dean predicts that the mobile/wearable computing market could grow astronomically over the next few years as companies develop more real-world application for technologies like Xybernaut's Atigo and Mobile Assistant V.