Safety innovation: Wearable technology gives a ‘nudge’ to alert wearer of potential risk or hazard
In the second article on safety technology innovation, SHP Caught up with Airsweb Product Development Director, Rob Leech, to find out about the company’s product AVA and its wearable technology innovation, Safety Nudge.
Safety Nudge sits at the crossroads of software and hardware. It is a piece of wearable technology, akin to a smart watch, designed specifically for high risk environments. It’s aim: to alert the wearer to a particular risk or hazard in their proximity. The Airsweb Safety Nudge technology is currently available as a hi-vis jacket or as a compact companion. With plans to further develop the technology, Rob Leech lets us in on how the original concept came about.
Rob Leech: “The problem was as straightforward: How do you keep people safe when they are surrounded by potential hazards?
“We wanted to give employees who are on fringes of organisations a nudge to keep them safe. These people might be contractors or drivers or people working in remote locations. They might not be allowed phones or iPad for security reasons, so the question was: how do we give these people a safety nudge, because they are the people that at the most risk.”
That was when Rob and his team came up with the idea of turning traditional PPE into internet connected devices using the Internet of Things concept.
It all started with a jacket
The idea that Rob and his team came up with was originally of a smart safety jacket that provided three types of notifications. Rob and his team recognised that they couldn’t know what kind of environment the wearer would be in – so they planned to alert the wearer in as many ways as possible.
- Sound – audio notifications alert the wearer;
- Light – LED lights flash;
- Haptic – shaking or vibrating.
Following the design and initial concept Airsweb partnered with an electrical engineer to design the first prototype. At the prototyping stage three more key components were added.
- Screen – the screen allows the Airsweb team to send more in-depth written instructions to the wearer. These instructions could be anything, but likely related to the wearers location or to the type of risk.
- Bluetooth – the introduction of Bluetooth connectivity is crucial for proximity notifications. Safety Nudge can communication with a nearby beacon, which can send up-to-date safety information. This information can be updated in real-time by an administrator. So if the risk moves, changes or dissipates, then the alert can be updated or turned off. For example, in the event of a chemical leak, administrators can update the alert when the leak first appears and deactivate it when it is contained.
- LoRaWAN – LoRaWAN is a low powered, wide area radio signal. It is designed to connect battery powered devices to the internet. LoRaWAN was chosen for this prototype for two main reasons.
- LoRaWAN is low powered and therefore does not use much battery.
- It has a huge range, so it is possible to connect to workers outside of traditional wifi or mobile network range.
Airsweb first created this technology as a proof of concept – and the response has been very positive. “Customers love the concept behind it. They think it’s a fantastic use of new technologies and the internet of things”, explains Rob.
“Some of our customers have said they can see multiple applications that we ourselves haven’t thought of. One in particular said they would give the Safety Nudge to auditors or senior managers who perhaps don’t go to individual sites very often and therefore aren’t aware of some of the risks.”
While this is still not market ready, there are organisations in the USA and in the UK who are looking closely at it. “One particular organisation in the oil and gas industry is considering this kind of technology for use of oil rigs”, explains Rob.
Wearable technology future
New versions of this Safety Nudge technology are in the pipeline in the Airsweb R&D lab. Smaller and sleeker versions that are wifi and triangulation enabled expand the usability of these devices. “The advantage of triangulation over proximity is the accuracy of the data,” explains Rob. “With proximity we know approximately where you are. With triangulation, we know exactly where you are.”
The Airsweb team know that Safety Nudge is still some way off market ready, but the concept behind it provides exciting possibilities for the future of workplace PPE.
See how safety nudge works, here: