Hands-Free Future

Rosina Geiger

Munich-based startup 4tiitoo is using eye tracking and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to build an intelligent, hands-free supply chain.

It’s just before 6 a.m. as a truck backs up to the warehouse dock at a major retail chain. The dock foreman opens the back door, connects the ramp, and begins to unload pallets. What follows is a process and ritual that is as ancient as commerce itself. Goods are counted and inspected. The bills of lading are checked and signed. Goods are labeled, stacked, and stored. Transaction data is recorded.

Yet whether it’s an ancient Egyptian writing on papyrus in 4000 B.C. or a modern worker entering data into an ERP system in 2050 A.D., two fundamental things have always been necessary: hands.

Until now.

Putting mice on steroids

In a growing number of warehouses around the world, workers are performing these functions without ever lifting a finger. Using eye tracking and control technology, they can enter data, process checklists, sign documents, and perform routine warehouse duties hands-free.

4tiitoo is leading this revolution with a system that combines eye tracking and AI to control each stage of the supply chain. The 4tiitoo platform – NUIA (Natural User Interaction to all Applications) – makes hands-free control as easy as language and gestures. Stephan Odörfer, co-founder & managing director for 4tiitoo, likens it to “mice on steroids.”

The hands-free supply chain

Eye control offers enormous advantages for today’s supply chain. The typical business and factory user clicks a mouse 3,000 to 8,000 times per day. That’s the equivalent of traveling several kilometers. By using eye movements, users can move seamlessly in and out of supply chain application windows, tabs, and data-entry fields in the blink of an eye – and save between 15 and 60 minutes per day in the process.

Eye control makes running a supply chain much more flexible. And because the interfaces aren’t dependent on any particular software system, businesses can use the technology at every point along the global chain. It’s an attractive proposition for manufacturers who want to explore digital transformation and achieve disruption in their industries:

  • Disassembling the assembly line. Today’s assembly line workers don’t just build cars, lawn mowers, and stereos. They also generate and enter data. Lots of it. And that requires data entry. In a point, click, and type environment, however, workers spend vast amounts of time moving between the assembly line and an ERP terminal. With eye control, workers can use their hands to create – and their eyes to capture the valuable data.
  • Deconstructing the office. A hands-free working environment also promises to change the office as we know it. Today, NUIA already significantly reduces mouse usage on standard SAP or CAD workplaces to make them 4% to 12% more productive. However, outfitted with smart glasses connected to the 5G cloud, workers will soon be able to unchain themselves from the desk, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Soon, they will be free to use simple eye movements to control the myriad of systems involved in their daily work.

A bigger vision

Eye control has broad potential within the digital supply management environment. In fact, 4tiitoo can be adapted to almost any classic ERP landscape. In the past, data entry for inventory, warehousing, and purchasing processes was largely performed manually. By adding hands-free functionality to manufacturing systems on the assembly line, for example, end users can enjoy a greatly enhanced user experience.

Eva Zauke, vice president of the Digital Supply Chain and head of the SAP Startup Accelerator program for the Digital Supply Chain at SAP, explains, “4tiitoo eye control technology requires very little data exchange, which means it can be quickly and easily integrated into the SAP ecosystem.”

For Odörfer, replacing the mouse with eye movements is part of a compelling vision for the supply chain of the future. “Replacing mouse clicks is important. The ultimate goal is to automate things so that a seamless, intelligent supply chain understands what I want. Our gaze-based NUIA Intention Prediction Technology is a first step on this path.”

And that is a future worth seeing, indeed.

4tiitoo is part of the SAP Startup Accelerator for Digital Supply Chain.

Rosina Geiger

About Rosina Geiger

Rosina Geiger is the Director of Startup Engagement at SAP. She has worked at the Hasso Plattner Institute before joining SAP in 2016 to establish the SAP Startup Accelerator for Digital Supply Chain in Berlin and Palo Alto.