IoT, big data, and wearables combine to boost safety

This startup has designed a high-tech hardhat for industrial workers.

Video: The rise of robots raises issue: Need for updated safety standards

Connected wearable devices are well established as products that can help people stay physically fit. One of the latest products in this space is designed to help workers avoid serious injury on the job.

A startup called GuardHat Inc., with the help of LexisNexis HPCC Systems, has created an Internet of Things (IoT) hardhat by that same name that aims to increase worker safety in industries such as oil and gas and mining.

Sensors in the GuardHat continuously transmit data in real time to a safety control center, enabling the system to pinpoint each worker's location and detect dangerous conditions.

The product has the ability to establish audio and video contact with workers after a fall; detect increasing levels of noxious carbon monoxide gas; and instantly send alerts to the control center and nearby workers also wearing GuardHats with precise location coordinates after a fall.

GuardHat was formed in late 2014, and the company's hardhat product is based on the founders' own experience as operators in heavy industry. The product has been tested in several field trials by oil and gas companies.

The hardhat uses the open source HPCC Systems platform for data analytics and real-time stream processing, said Flavio Villanustre, vice president of technology and head of HPCC Systems for LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

The platform gives companies the ability to crunch massive amounts of multi-dimensional data coupled with machine learning to make predictions and potentially modify outcomes, Villanustre said. This has become a necessity in oil and gas and many other industries such as metals and mining, and utilities.

"This approach can effectively reduce risks and save lives, as systems like GuardHat's can provide capabilities like virtual geofencing to keep workers away from dangerous areas," Villanustre said. Sensors can quickly identify dangerous chemicals or smoke and localized alerts let workers know if they need to move when hazardous conditions occur.

"Wearables like these can help protect the most valuable asset, which is human life," Villanustre said. "They can act as remote and distributed sensors to better monitor the state of industrial plants and infrastructure facilities with unprecedented detail."

The technology can pinpoint a worker's location to within less than a foot, monitor vital signs, video immediate surroundings, instantly detect impacts and sounds such as blasts, and warn of noxious gas buildups. The audio and video functionality also provides a workforce with the ability to easily communicate when remote expert support is needed to assess conditions.

"Wearables can also be great training tools complementing modern e-learning systems, to more effectively prepare workers for the job," Villanustre said.

LexisNexis HPCC Systems is collaborating with a number of organizations that develop wearable devices for different purposes, including safety, health monitoring, and precision medicine.

"Open source platforms such as the HPCC Systems technology are driving a significant amount of innovation in this particular field, and not just improving safety but also increasing yield in milk and enhancing our ability to deal with rare diseases," Villanustre said.

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