Energy, manufacturing, utilities, and public safety are just some of the segments challenged by rapidly evolving technological, economic, and social forces. Combine these pressures with opportunities enabled by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and we can create transformational changes to improve worker safety, accelerate productivity and efficiency, and lower costs. IoT won’t just empower things to perform efficiently—it will also empower workers to better perform their work and improve efficiency, safety, and health.
That’s why I’m so excited about Rice Electronics Connected Worker Solution with Intel IoT technology, designed specifically to increase industrial worker productivity and safety by combining smartphones from Rice Electronics with gas sensors used for toxic gas monitoring. By leveraging IoT devices—including wearables for workers, such as head-mounted displays (e.g., smart glass and smart helmets), devices worn on a wrist, belt, or body suit, smartphones, or tablets—the Intel IoT gateway aggregates information from connected workers for near real-time insights.
Connected worker solutions can make a world of difference. Did you know that the U.S. economic cost of worker injuries and illnesses is estimated to be more than $225 billion annually, with the bulk of the expense incurred after the accident happens. Industrial workers are at increased risk for accidents, exposure to environmental hazards, security threats, and even health emergencies. These workers may be found in mines, oil and gas refineries, factories, construction sites, warehouses, and in the field maintaining, inspecting, repairing equipment, and providing services to customers. They often work in settings outside the reach of traditional and cellular communication networks, leaving them without reliable voice or data communication.
Intel conducted an extensive study, interviewing workers in the manufacturing, energy, public safety, warehouse, field service, and construction sectors. The resulting insight on key challenges found that many workers within industrial organizations:
- Are unaware of imminent threats (e.g., toxins, weather risks) to worker health and safety until after safety has been compromised.
- Lack real-time awareness of man-down situations or other incidents affecting worker well-being, resulting in delays in workers getting necessary help and putting them further at risk.
- Do not know real-time worker locations (versus where they are expected to be). Companies are often unaware when unauthorized workers enter potentially dangerous areas, compromising security, and risking injuries or fatalities.
- Lack real-time access to current information, so they may not be working with the latest data or missing key updates, resulting in costly rework or delays.
Whether dealing with threats to personal safety or accessing the latest information to maximize productivity, industrial workers need near-real-time communication and information to keep them productive and safe. Intel works closely with the ecosystem and system integrators (SIs) to deliver an effective, flexible, scalable end-to-end connected worker solution.
The Rice Electronics Connected Worker Solution with Intel IoT technology is already in use by industry. The solution includes an Android-based smartphone from Rice Electronics installed with connected worker applications, and an expert/supervisor online portal. The smartphone is designed to interface with various sensors and relays data to a remote command center via an Intel Atom processor-based gateway. Backend analytics and visualization complement near-real-time local intelligence and alerts from the gateway.
The solution helps significantly improve the productivity and safety of industrial workers. It provides robust two-way communication between workers and remote operation centers, while simultaneously sharing vital near real-time sensor data about the work environment. Data flows between the Rice Electronics smartphones, a sensor hub, the Intel-powered IoT gateway, and the remote command center, using connected worker applications for remote analytics.
- Predicting imminent threats
- Responding to potential man down or lone worker emergencies
- Sending warnings and alerts in cases of gas toxicity
- Sending notifications when there are imminent weather risks
- Geo-fencing workers to monitor safety and keep communication lines open
- Providing near-real-time communication to prevent accidents, support productivity, and offer timely training
- Tracking worker locations Indoors and outdoors
With the Rice Electronics Connected Worker Solution with Intel IoT technology, workers are accounted for and their safety monitored with near real-time location tracking. Geo-fencing allows supervisors to help ensure that contract workers or trainees are not inadvertently trespassing into prohibited areas and putting themselves into danger.
In the case of an unconscious or injured worker, a generated alert can help ensure immediate assistance. With toxic gas monitoring capability, workers can be informed when thresholds are exceeded. This near real-time responsive capability is critical to save precious lives, as well as reduce damage in terms of insurance and equipment costs.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about a more connected future. Based on a pilot conducted at a utility company, Intel observed that location tracking and timely weather alerts speed responses to workers and can save lives. With Intel and Rice Electronics, companies have a feasible IoT solution to support, protect, and optimize work for a safer, and more productive, tomorrow.
Learn more about connected worker solutions at intel.com/connectedworker. To stay informed about Intel IoT developments, subscribe to our RSS feed for email notifications of blog updates, or visit intel.com/IoT, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.