Tata launches safety wearable smartwatch targeting miners & freighting companies

Two years ago, the Tata Group Chief Technology Officer Gopichand Katragadda was weighing the option of entering the wearable technology market with a product that went beyond the crowded consumer-fitness segment.

At the same time, the $103-billion group’s oldest business, Tata Steel, was exploring ways to reduce shop floor injuries that hurt overall productivity and cost valuable time.

Katragadda then started developing a safety wearable watch for the workers of Tata Steel, and Titan, Tata Elxsi, and Tata Consultancy Services were roped in for the ‘design thinking’ process. The smart watch, with an analogue face, can track workers’ heart beats, temperature, movement, fall detection and ambient gases.

The Tata Group is now ready to sell these smart watches through Tata Communications, the conglomerate’s telecommunications solutions and services business. It sees industries, miners, and freighting companies as potential customers initially.

Tata launches safety wearable smartwatch targeting miners & freighting companies“For these programmes, we are looking at potential revenue of $1 billion and a profit of $100 million is possible,“ Katragadda told ET.“Right now, our partner for go-to market is Tata Communications. We are working on the pricing model. What might work in a B2B model is a monthly subscription rather than a certain price.“

Personal protective equipment glasses, watches, helmets, and shoes – is a $30 billion market globally, according to Katragadda. The Group Technology Office had to surmount many challenges and concerns by using the ‘design thinking’ process, which put the Tata Steel worker at the centre of iterative and designing pro cess.

“When you think about design, the usual conclusion is the latest, great but design should test, and coolest but design should be right for the end-user, the factory worker,“ Katragadda. “One surprising aspect of the discussion was that they don’t want the face to be digital. They did not want any messaging to appear. They wanted the workers to be least distracted.“

The Tata Group appears to be one of the conglomerates putting design-thinking into practice. The safety wearable is the first successful project ready for the market from the Group Technology and Innovation office.

“The shift toward design thinking is beginning to happen at large organisations in India. It will play a large role as conglomerates become more consumer-facing,“ said technology consultant Siddharth Pai. “But it is important to see how prevalent it is across the organization. Right now, messaging is ahead of reality.“

The Tata Group CTO’s office also had to win over the unions over privacy concerns because they were concerned that Tata Steel will use the watches to track their movements after work.

“There was a resistance… there was a privacy angle. We explained the design can locate you only at work and not afterwards,“ Katragadda said. “Earlier, no one wanted it because of the `big brother’ fear.But now, everyone wants it.“

Katragadda is not keen to remove the watch feature from the device and make it a pure wearable to reduce costs as watches are a “matter of pride“ for the workers. The group technology office has done a pilot with crane workers at Tata Steel in the past six months.

“They now tell their wives that Tata has given me a watch to keep me safe but if you remove the watch what will you tell the spouse?“ asked Katragadda.

Source: ET Tech