2.78 million workers die every year as a direct result of occupational accidents or work-related diseases. That’s a workforce with a population of Chicago dying every year.
You can imagine companies go overboard to improve workplace conditions. But even in advanced economies, it takes a strong legal framework and culture of litigation to achieve that. In places where most of the work happens, there is neither.
What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?
The Internet of Things (IoT) promotes the free flow of information across computing devices, entities (people and objects) and machinery. IoT is like a social butterfly that serves as the glue to keep a group of people together. It keeps everyone talking to everything and gets information to the people who need it.
This communication means more real-time information is available to improve workplace safety. While legacy systems are increasingly integrated, newer devices are progressive. These devices are ecosystem independent and enable better connectivity. The workplace safety-enhancing properties of IoT systems are generally acknowledged across verticals. What is there to not like?
Before we look at the most relevant application areas, we assure you that IoT is universally benevolent. You and your industry will benefit just as well if your business touches upon people, equipment and has a characteristic environment. See if any of the following hold clues.
IoT in the Personal Sphere
The personal sphere is a special area for application because information flows both ways. At all times, schematics and geo-location technology can enable tracking in the workforce. But you can alter workers from time to time, given threat perception, or if necessary access privileges are absent, given their location.
That huge abbreviation stands for Personal Protection Equipment that is secured by Radio-Frequency Identification technology.
The RFID transponders or identifiers are unique across the world and help with individual record-keeping that’s cost-effective. Every piece of equipment is equipped with an RFID transponder (or chip).
These transponders can store relevant safety data, as well as data on maintenance and product lifecycle. Any RFID reader can “read” an RFID transponder within its vicinity. This gives quick access to:
- maintenance instructions,
- information about product use, and
- maintenance records.
Your company can rely on this technology to showcase its safety record.
Armed with easy access to information regarding product use and safety measures, your employees can feel better blindly trusting their equipment, whether they are 200 yards in the air or hundreds of feet underground.
Some leading-edge manufacturers like 3M and Honeywell are already offering solutions in this space. 3M’s Connected Safety Program is a whole ecosystem that manages equipment, workers, and workplaces.
Picture scanning a worker’s badge and accessing his or her full training record, fit testing certificate, required PPE and all equipment assigned to them.
Honeywell is developing its latest innovation: a connected smart headset.
This offers the wearer benefits like tracking personal exposure to noise. This makes an otherwise invisible risk visible and encourages workers to take care of their safety. It would also allow health and safety managers to monitor and analyze noise exposure across multiple sites via the cloud, thereby identifying trends to make data-driven decisions to enhance hearing conservation in the long term.
Heat Stress Monitoring
Heat has a debilitating impact on just about everything, so it’s no surprise that the human body is no match. Companies want to know how much their workers can take if heat is going to be an occupational factor. They do this by using the Heat Stress Index (HSI)
Of course, if that number is above a certain critical threshold, work must stop. This is one of the most important workplace safety parameters.
IoT can calculate the Heat Stress Index on a running basis, for the most updated number at all times. It collects important data from heat and humidity sensors, needed to calculate the index. Of course, these parameters keep changing as the day progresses, and a lot depends on accurately measuring these numbers, something machines are also very good at. Many different channels can convey post-processed information like messaging, email or mobile apps. The speed holds the pride of place every time — when compared with manual intervention.
If you’ve ever had to manage more than two people in a field, you’d appreciate personnel tracking made possible by IoT. Several IoT solutions come with productivity parameter measurements, including the use of working hours. Interestingly, special solutions may also be tailored for children, such as in a school or a daycare setting. Smart geo-locators can provide accurate positioning, using triggers such as distance from a landmark. Besides location, IoT can also track worker movement.
This is a hit with people-oriented businesses because the impact on efficiency is quickly seen. Besides tracking working hours, waste is successfully reduced, productivity levels have been shown to increase and the quality of the product or the service offered has also improved.
Two-way information flow alerts the employee asset deployment, whenever there is an emergency. Express instructions may be provided based on the location of particular employees. The product can also be used in guided tours.
The equipment domain within business operations also stands to benefit substantially, even though the information flow would be one way. More and more legacy systems are being connected to talk to modern information ecosystems to reduce human micromanagement. Again, depending on the design and the capabilities of the equipment, asset tracking and predictive maintenance can be carried out.
Once again, we’re going to invoke the latest communicative faculty within modern machinery and use it to send information in a way that we can directly understand. The flow has to be fast and needs to be robust. Most commonly, you should be able to locate your asset easily and receive subsequent status updates. Secondary information can include sensor data. Temperature, speed, direction, and acceleration are some of the most common parameters to track.
In modern setups, it’s standard to hook up a cloud solution for limitless capacity. This also allows access to a wide array of cloud applications that will help manage and digest that data. Otherwise, you’d have to install individual applications on your LAN, which is not a very comforting prospect, to say the least.
If the supposed usage is outdoors, the system is likely to be watertight, rugged, and lightweight with a self-charging rechargeable battery. Such solutions are immediately applicable to large fleets of vehicles. Often, they can communicate via SMS, email or another mobile application.
Here’s an interesting stat: only 18% of equipment across the industry fails because of its age. This is less than 1/5 of all machines deployed. On the other hand, 82% of failures have to do with random occurrences.
A bare naked truth emerges: time-based approaches for equipment maintenance are wasteful. This is where IoT, combined with some crafty data science, can come in handy.
IoT solutions are superior because they can process huge amounts of information using sophisticated algorithms.
Traditional implementations are local (SCADA). Subsequently, machine-learning algorithms can be run on enormous amounts of data to forecast potential hazard points. Of course, this computation would take place in the cloud. That means ample resources are available as per need and ensuring time-bound completion.
Replacing a battery is an example of this. Battery performance is dependent on the temperature, the voltage and discharge levels. In other situations, variables can be similarly identified as well. Once you have identified the variables, you can place sensors to gather up-to-date data. Several gateways may process information before it ends up in the cloud to reduce the traffic. In this case, machine-learning algorithms will use this data to bring out correlations or detect abnormalities in patterns, which may not be evident without analysis. Subsequently, predictive models may be built, trained and employed to check for self-discharge or estimate the amount of usage left.
IoT can regulate the environment, the third most important domain within business processes. The basic concepts are the same, gathering as much sensor-based information as possible, filtering it and then sending a refined volume up to the cloud for analysis.
Let’s look at two use cases: gas monitoring and productivity.
1. Gas Monitoring
Of course, if there is a gas leak somewhere you want to know and take corrective action right away. The IoT framework allows you to do that fast. Carbon monoxide sensors have been around for years and do just that. But, the beauty of IoT lies in the significantly more information made available. For example, the sensors can measure concentrations at different places in the pipeline, and you would know where there is a discrepancy, and most likely the leak. You can also measure the amount of gas leaking, and the level of emergency that it should correctly trigger. Solutions are available to provide all this information in gas detection management software, improving your organization’s gas detection program.
The IoT framework deploys a creative network of sensors to collect production information at specific time intervals. Filtered data is then sent to the cloud, where algorithms would transform it into meaningful insights and information about efficiency in operations. The lines of action could include optimizing asset inventory, reducing the amount of equipment downtime, agility in operations, energy efficiency, and even new sources of revenue.
There’s a Solution for Your Business
Given your operations and parameters that you deal with, there are solutions available to help you measure it all and improve the safety of your operations.
This is the magic of the Internet of Things.
While it helps with small everyday tasks, it can play an even larger role in keeping your assets, your workers, and your community safe.
We’re proud and excited to work with the world-leading innovators in this space and continue bringing the best to our customers.
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