How IoT Saves Workers' Lives


There are always people beyond a company’s success — the employee remains the bedrock of progress. Not surprisingly, employers strive to deliver decent and safe working conditions to their subordinates. Today, when the number of work-related fatalities increases every month, the employee’s safety stays the number one priority in any organization where occupational risk factors exist.

A viable approach to ensuring employees’ safety in the Industry 4.0 era is the internet of things (IoT). Numerous IoT use cases in business show that this technology brings both employers and employees’ convenience and productivity. But what about safety? Let’s explore several real-life examples of how both technology giants and small startups leverage IoT to help employees stay out of harm’s way.

Nation Waste and IBM Provide a Full-Scale Solution for Workers’ Safety
By having joined hands with IBM, Nation Waste, Inc., a waste disposal company based in Houston, developed an IoT-powered solution for worker safety. Called The Nation Safety Net, it helps employees avoid work-related injuries and employers deliver timely assistance in case of any hazard.

The collaboration brought a full-scale solution for worker safety improvement. It embodies employee and employer’s mobile apps as well as a sensor-equipped helmet, vest, and wristband.

For example, the helmet contains an accelerometer that tracks employee movement and helps managers detect if a worker falls down or collides with something. Environmental sensors embedded into the vest monitor temperature, light, noise, oxygen, and carbon monoxide levels. The wristband, in its turn, finds out whether an employee’s heart rate and body temperature are within the norm.

To start using the solution, the worker should put on all the wearables and pair them to the employee mobile application, which starts monitoring their condition. The supervisor has their own version of the mobile app, which shows whether all workers wear all the necessary equipment. Both applications deliver timely audio and vibration notifications in case of hazards such as gas exposure, heat stress, fatigue, or equipment removal. Upon receiving the immediate alert, supervisors and their subordinates can take the necessary actions in the earliest time possible.

The Nation Safety Net now is used as an occupational risk preventing practice by a range of companies. The results of the solution’s implementation force to believe in IoT effectiveness: according to the statistics cited on the official website of Nation Waste, an oil and gas company that used the product managed to reduce their injury rate by 86 . Nation Waste forecasts that the solution will bring 150  increase in profit margins for the next five years.

Fujitsu Presents a Set of Wearables Aimed at Worker Safety Advancement
Fujitsu, a Japanese multinational IT company, doesn’t remain indifferent to the problem of worker safety too. In recent years, the company developed a set of wearables aimed at worker protection. The solution is comprised of the Vital Sensing Band, Location Badge, and Driver Drowsiness Detector.

The Vital Sensing Band is a lightweight wearable with the ability to capture and measure an employee’s vital signs along with some environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. The band can detect if the employee falls or is exposed to heat stress.

As for the Location Badge, the device uses GPS and RTLS (real-time location solution) for outdoor and indoor monitoring. The product allows work providers and their subordinates to get location data and detect postures and falls.

The Driver Drowsiness Detector consists of a device to be worn around a driver’s neck and a sensor clip attached to their earlobe. The sensor gathers the driver’s pulse waves and sends their patterns to Fujitsu proprietary algorithm, which can identify the signs of drowsiness based on this data.

For their IoT solutions, the company uses over 68 algorithms that transform sensor data into illustrative event information. Bluetooth Low Energy transmits this data to an employee’s or/and an employer’s mobile applications. If any abnormalities detected, the wearable vibrates, or the mobile app gives an alarming voice message.

Today, Fujitsu devices for worker safety are used in companies around the world and help employees to bypass or successfully live through work-related hazards. Enterprises employing the solution say the system is raising morale among workers. According to Fujitsu, their accurate analysis of falls, heat stress, and worker wellbeing brought the company almost 50 patents.

Small Companies Also on Guard of Employee Safety
While market giants like IBM and Fujitsu are moving towards employee safety at a rapid-fire pace, small enterprises also take the problem of work-related hazards and their elimination rather seriously.

Consider the example of SolePower, a startup that creates OSHA-approved smart boots that provide workforce managers with automatic alerts of possible and ongoing accidents. The proprietary IoT system tracks employee indoor and outdoor location, measures their vitals, and delivers visualized results of the gathered data to managers.

Intending to prevent driver fatigue, Australia-located SmartCap developed a belt to attach to their helmet or hat. Unlike the Fujitsu Driver Drowsiness Detector that tracks pulse waves, SmartCap belt reads brain activity data through EEG to measure an operator’s alertness and provides notifications in case of soon-to-come microsleeps.

Safety and Productivity: Two Sides of the Same Coin
As you can see, today both market giants and small startups are employing IoT solutions for employee safety. These products help enterprises reduce injury rates as well as give workers the confidence that they will return home safely. And this confidence can be considered the most valuable employee benefit. When workers know that their lives count, it boosts their loyalty and productivity, which is also good for the organization they are working for.

About the author: Alex Paretski is a Technology Observer at Itransition, a custom software development company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. He specializes in exploring IT innovations and enjoys following the latest business trends. Alex also considers that knowledge and research are the most important constituent parts in the process of making the right decision.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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