At 6 am, Martha rises out of bed and looks at her phone. A health app has tracked her sleep through wearable tech on her wrist, telling her that she received a good night’s sleep but didn’t spend the optimal amount of time in REM sleep.

She steps onto her scale, which not only measures her weight but also her body fat percentage and BMI – stats which are updated to an app on her phone in real time.

As she starts out on her morning run, tech in her sneakers tracks the distance, speed and intensity of her run – stats she can compare to previous runs through an app on her phone.

Midway through her morning the wearable tech on her wrist beeps, alerting her to the fact she’s been stationary for too long and needs to take a walk.

Since cell phones have become ubiquitous in modern society, we have gradually come to depend on them for more and more information about our daily lives. The latest trend seems to be health monitoring, with more and better smart gadgets appearing every day that allow the average person to keep an eye on their vital stats.

The future of hand protection is moving in much the same direction. Much as our personal lives have become more connected and enhanced by smart devices, workplace safety is moving towards the connected worker and smart PPE (personal protective equipment).

Historically, innovations in hand protection aimed to make gloves thinner while also packing in more protection. While better protection in thinner gloves continues to drive innovation, the future appears to be centered on incorporating a different type of protection: preventative tech.

The evolution of preventative tech

Preventative tech is wearable tech that is built into hand protection and can alert the wearer and others to potential dangers – both internal and external.

The trick is to incorporate tech into gloves while keeping the gloves thin and dexterous. This is easier said than done. The best way to incorporate tech into gloves without making them uncomfortable or adding unnecessary bulk is the same way many other protections are built-in: The tech needs to be woven into the fibers.

The technology to accomplish this is still a long way off, but that’s where the future of hand protection is headed. 

Pre-empting external hazards

Imagine a world where workers can look at their hands and instantly be aware of environmental hazards and whether the gloves they’re wearing offer adequate protection or not.

The technology isn’t quite here yet, but this is exactly where the industry headed: Hand protection that can not only keep hands safe but also provide the wearer with key indicators about the environment and hazards that may be present, potentially avoiding hand injuries before they occur.

One idea for evolving hand protection is tech that allows gloves to change color so the wearer will instantly know if hazards are present. For instance, safety gloves could be constructed that change color when exposed to certain chemicals or temperatures to alert the wearer to potential hazards.

Tech built right into safety gloves can also help locate workers in an emergency or make others aware of injuries and medical concerns. Smart PPE with GPS built right in has myriad ramifications for making job sites more efficient, more productive, and safer. Imagine if a supervisor could know the exact location of each of his or her workers in real-time simply by looking at a cell phone – what an incredible time saver that would be. In some industries, smart PPE could literally be a life saver; consider industries such as mining where locating workers immediately after a mine collapse is a matter of life and death.

The evolution of the connected worker has boundless ramifications for safety, including better reporting and analysis, which leads to better safety practices. Imagine tech-enhanced hand protection that collects data on hand injuries – every bump, scratch, and cut. The data compiled would be invaluable for safety professionals looking for ways to improve safety in workplaces and job sites.

Monitoring internal health

Remember Martha from our opening story? She was able to monitor myriad aspects of her health through wearable tech. You probably do as well – the ability to keep tabs on what’s happening inside your body in real time is no longer science fiction, it’s science fact; many of us do it every day without hardly thinking about it.

Smart PPE has the potential to revolutionize worker health in the same way. With connected workers, a supervisor would know immediately if a worker was working in dangerous conditions such as too much heat or cold, or if they were experiencing a health emergency.

Creating connected workers has the potential to exponentially increase the safety of workplaces and the great news is that the technology to accomplish this is not that far from becoming a reality.

The future of hand protection

While no one can know for sure what the future holds, it will no doubt involve some sort of connected worker made safer through the use of smart PPE. Whether that involves gloves made from tech fibers, color changing gloves, or something completely different is anybody’s guess.