Robust connectivity for smart shoes

VRaktion relies on the robust connectors from the Fischer Freedom™ Series for optimal connectivity in a smart work shoe co-developed with the safety shoe manufacturer Elten. The shoes have laser sensors at the front and back that send the wearer a warning on his or her smartphone or smartwatch via Bluetooth if they approach an obstacle. The technology in the shoe is powered by a high-performance battery. Connectors from the Fischer Freedom™ Series are used to recharge it. These were specially developed for use in harsh conditions. This means the shoes can be used on muddy surfaces, in sewers or on dusty building sites without damaging the connectors.

Elten’s safety shoes meet all the requirements to protect their wearers from harm as far as possible in everyday use. With steel toecaps and optimal padding, they guarantee safety from external influences as well as a high degree of comfort. However, they cannot prevent workers from tripping over because they have not seen and recognized obstacles. This is a constant danger, especially in dark passages or during firefighting operations with high levels of smoke.

In order to prevent accidents and falls caused by poor visibility in the future, Elten has developed some smart shoes with the experts in wearables from VRaktion that alert the wearer to possible tripping points. Lasers embedded in the shoes identify obstacles in front of and behind the wearer and emit an appropriate warning signal. The sensors can not only detect obstacles, but also measure how far away they are. For example, workers carrying crates are warned whenever they approach an obstacle. Even in dark spaces, such as in sewerage systems or in smoky buildings during firefighting operations, the sensor signals obstacles that cannot be seen due to external conditions. This prevents falls caused by restricted visibility.

The wearer is alerted by means of the vibration alarm on his or her smartphone or smartwatch. The respective terminal thereby functions like a hub or server. A Bluetooth chip is built into the shoes, establishing a connection with the wearer's mobile device. The shoes can thus also be connected to smartwatches or even AR glasses. The Bluetooth chips in the shoes can be linked to each other too. If several people wearing the shoes are walking around in the same building, they can tell where all the other shoes are. This enables firefighters, for example, to track down their colleagues in an emergency. Built-in LEDs can also be used to illuminate a route. The shoes can therefore be used as a flashlight too, if need be. As a result, workers can see where they are going even in the dark without having to hold a flashlight in their hands. To ensure that the smart work shoes can also be used reliably in harsh environments, without the components being damaged by mud or dirt, rugged connectors from the Fischer Freedom™ Series are relied upon for connectivity.

VRaktion smart shoe
The smart safety shoe featuring a 4-contact Fischer LP360™ connector from the Fischer Freedom™ Series.

 

CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES 

Reliable connectivity in all environments

The technology in the shoes is powered by a high-performance battery. VRaktion had long been on the lookout for the ideal connectivity solution to recharge it. First, they tried micro-USB connections. But these were not robust enough. On a trade fair visit in Germany, the VRaktion team visited Fischer Connectors’ booth with a prototype. Over the course of the conversation, they finally identified connectors from the Fischer Freedom™ Series as a possible solution. Since the Fischer FreedomTM Series connectors are not only very robust and easy to clean, but also very powerful in a highly compact form, they proved to be the ideal solution for the shoe.

Since the shoes are used primarily in dusty, damp or dirty environments and are exposed to vibrations and impacts, for example from objects falling on them, the technology also has to be suitably resistant. The shoes have to be able to withstand external influences as well. For example, if the shoes are worn while working on muddy ground, the connections need to be able to cope with such conditions. The Fischer FreedomTM connectors not only withstand mud and water, they are also easy to clean.

The Fischer FreedomTM Series connectors do without male-female poles, featuring surface contacts instead. A membrane protects the contacts fully from contamination and moisture up to the IP68 sealing level. At the same time, the membrane enables easy cleaning. Handling is very user-friendly too. Thanks to their lack of key code, the connectors provide a straightforward 360-degree mating capability. The blind-mate, 360-degree locking mechanism makes any false manipulations impossible and the mating process intuitive. This allows the shoe's battery to be recharged quickly and easily after each use. Firmware updates can also be installed via the connectors. This is normally done 'over-the-air'. However, some companies with particularly sensitive data prefer updates via cable. Both are possible.

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"While searching for the right connectivity solution for our smart work shoes, we visited Fischer Connectors’ booth with our prototype on a trade show visit. Over the course of our discussion we identified connectors from the Fischer Freedom™ Series as a possible solution. For example, when the shoes are worn on muddy ground during operations, the connectors have to be mud-resistant. The Fischer Freedom™ connectors not only withstand mud and water, they’re also easy to clean and, despite being highly compact, are very powerful. This makes them the ideal solution for our shoe".

Bernhard Schipper, Co-founder and Product Manager of VRaktion UG

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THE PROJECT IN BRIEF 

Project outline

While developing their smart work shoes, VRaktion’s developers had long been on the lookout for the right connectivity solution to recharge the battery. This had to be powerful, compact, robust and easy to clean. Since the shoes are mainly used in dusty, humid or dirty environments and are exposed to vibrations and impacts, for example by objects falling on them, the technology also had to be suitably resistant. The shoes needed to be able to withstand external influences, such as mud and water, too. The Fischer Freedom™ Series connectors, specifically designed for use in harsh environments, proved to be the ideal solution. The shoes, equipped with laser sensors and LEDs as well as their embedded technology, are fully protected by the membrane-sealed connectors, even on muddy ground.

The Fischer Freedom™ Series connectors do without male-female poles, featuring surface contacts instead. A membrane protects the contacts fully from contamination and moisture up to the IP68 sealing level. At the same time, the membrane enables easy cleaning. Handling is very user-friendly too. Thanks to their lack of key code, the connectors provide a straightforward 360-degree mating capability. The blind-mate, 360-degree locking mechanism makes any false manipulations impossible and the mating process intuitive. This allows the shoe's battery to be recharged quickly and easily after each use. Firmware updates can also be installed via the connectors.

Key challenges

  • Easy to clean
  • Resistant to external influences such as water, mud and dust
  • Especially space-saving
  • Robust against shocks and vibrations

Main technical requirements

Space-saving, robust, reliable, durable

 

THE SOLUTION 

Selected connectivity solution

Fischer Freedom™ Series

Customer benefits

  • Robust
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Space-saving