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At the Heart of IoT: Tracking Worker's Vital Signs for Safety

By Cynthia S. Artin July 18, 2018

Innovations in the Industrial IoT (IIoT) world are vast and often mechanically driven, with sensors, systems and applications designed to instrument massive factories to reduce costs and optimize outputs.

More cars, better made, at a lower cost, with continual opportunities for improvement.

More designer water, bottled faster, with fewer humans, with fewer errors, and greater predictability.

More machines, maintained automatically, with alerts sent when part A or part B is on the cusp of malfunctioning.

More and more, for less and less, with better quality and more efficiency – it’s all good.

But good became great this week when four companies – Behr Technologies, Advantech, Hitachi Solutions America and Microsoft announced at Microsoft’s massive Inspire event a private IIoT connectivity solution with a lot of bells and whistles that they are rolling out first with an application that will make real live humans safer.

With all technical detail aside (which we’ll share later in this article), the companies are rolling out a new approach to workforce safety using their collaborative LPWAN solution to connect wearable devices that monitor the heart rate of workers in industrial, high-risk environments – for example vast construction sites, remote mining operations, bridge and tunnel development locations and more.

Their BTI MIOTY LPWAN wireless solution, connected via an industry-standard gateway, will securely transmit data on the health of hundreds of workers over unlicensed, sub-gigahertz frequencies to an Advantech base station.

From there, the data is communicated to the Microsoft Cloud, where Hitachi Solutions’ IoT Service Hub analyzes the data and sends alerts when workers are in danger. Employers can deploy this end-to-end solution to protect their workforce in real time, with greater impact and at a lower cost than traditional health check means.

“By providing ‘last mile’ connectivity, BTI MIOTY is helping deliver on the promise of IoT for industrial and commercial environments to make our world a better place to live, work, and play,” said Albert Behr, CEO of Behr Technologies. “For example, the workers’ safety in the mines where these devices are being used is more closely monitored while the productivity of the mine is enhanced; it’s a win-win all around.”

IIoT is a “team sport” and these tech companies have come together to build a scalable, mass-market offering which includes deep building penetration with extremely long battery life, which is a signature of LPWAN networking approaches.

industrial and commercial applications. The solution will deliver massive scalability, the deepest possible building penetration, integration and interoperability with legacy systems, along with extremely long battery life for nodes.

While this is just one application for the combined technologies, it’s notable in that it is designed to protect human workers, who cannot be replaced by machines.

The partnered out-of-the-box wireless IIoT communications solution has been designed to work with various sensors connected to the difficult to pronounce BTI MIOTY low-power, wide-area network (LPWAN) communications solution (the first to use the ETSI standard telegram splitting ultra-narrow band technical specification for low throughput networks).

This standard, in the works for years, enables organizations to deploy private IoT sensor when capacity, high Quality-of-Service (QoS), and low cost is called for.

Using Advantech gateways, BTI MIOTY will transmit up to 1.5 million messages per day within a radius of five to 15 kilometers, with no carrier requirements.

“Through this collaboration with Microsoft, Hitachi Solutions, and BTI, we are working to deliver an integrated IIoT solution,” said Stephen Huang, associate vice president of Advantech’s Embedded IoT Group. “Our Edge Intelligence Server provides a device-to-cloud solution at the edge. With WISE-PaaS EdgeSense IoT software built into the gateway, we can provide connectivity and manageability at the edge to simplify IIoT applications.”

Hitachi Solutions’ IoT Service Hub is layered into the solution, enabling the registration and management of devices with software that analyzes the data in real time.

“Through this collaboration, we can add our unique and advanced analytics-based business value to the solution,” said Craig Burbidge, senior vice president of Hitachi Solutions America. “With our IoT Service Hub as the platform, customers will be able to aggregate and analyze equipment telemetry data in real time. The actionable insights provided will allow them to be more predictive and proactive, ensuring a safer and more productive environment with more efficient and cost-effective operations.”

Microsoft comes in with the Azure cloud, as the company continues to reach out to the very edge of the IoT and IIoT, a market the company clearly values as it continues to expand its enterprise strategy.

“With Azure services and BTI MIOTY, customers can implement cost-effective and highly scalable solutions to facilitate the “last mile” of communication for messages delivered from sensors to the Cloud,” said, Rashmi Misra, general manager, IoT Solutions at Microsoft. “Working with our broad partner ecosystem, we are ushering in a new era of IoT communication that will enable organizations around the world to realize the promise of industrial automation in ways that were not previously possible.”

“Because our technology works on almost everyone’s gateways and sensors, we can facilitate data-gathering and communication in any setting you can imagine from underground parking decks and window washers on high-rises, to ocean drilling platforms, farms, refineries, and elevators,” said Behr.

“BTI MIOTY works even if the sensor is moving. This means the elevators you ride in can be monitored while you’re going up and down, and the truck hauling ore in a mine is tracked throughout its route, enhancing safety for everyone.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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