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IoT Brings Intelligence to Hard Hats

Companies are trialing a new Internet of Things system from GuardHat, with data-management software from HPCC Systems, to understand where their workers are located—both in real time and historically—as well as the conditions around them, in order to boost safety and efficiency.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 02, 2017

GuardHat, an Internet of Things (IoT) technology startup, has launched a system to monitor the locations of workers, as well as detect if they may be entering or exposed to dangerous conditions, via sensors on their hard hats. The system uses GuardHat's wireless sensor-based technology, built into a hard hat, in addition to beacon devices with multiple communication technologies built in, as well as its sensor data management software, integrated with a data-analytics software platform from HPCC Systems.

HPCC Systems, an open-source, big data platform originally developed by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, offers a workflow processing and analytics platform known as Thor, along with a real-time data-delivery platform dubbed ROXIE. That software, combined with GuardHat's own IoT system, enables users to view, both in real time and historically, data related to the location and status of employees around worksites. The system is currently being tested by three oil and gas companies in North America and Europe, says Gerrit Reepmeyer, GuardHat's co-founder and chief operating officer, while several metal and mining operations are preparing to deploy their own tests of the technology as well.

GuardHat was launched in late 2014 by a team of individuals from the steel industry. They had not only worked in industrial environments, but had witnessed the lack of visibility with which management struggled when it came to worker safety and employee management. Reepmeyer recalls that one of the founders had witnessed a night-shift incident during which a worker caused and detected but failed to report a carbon monoxide leak, which could have created a hazard for personnel.

The GuardHat system is designed to take the guesswork out of managing workers. Its built-in sensors are intended to track where employees are located, any gasses to which they might have been exposed, if they enter an unauthorized area and multiple other safety or efficiency concerns.

Each GuardHat is manufactured to meet the same requirements of any standard worker-safety hat, but the GuardHat has intelligence built in, the company reports—it comes with a variety of sensors to help identify each worker's location with up to 1-meter accuracy. The system also includes an RFID reader to detect the proximity of a hard hat from a tagged item. It comes with sensors, such as a gas detector and an accelerometer to identify movement, even if a worker suddenly falls, as well as a camera and a microphone.

The hard hat has three buttons on it: two to control audio and video, and a third to issue an SOS message. In the case of the audio function, a worker can simply press the corresponding button and the microphone will enable him or her to speak with someone—a manager, for instance—remotely using a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. If the employee presses the video button, the camera on the hard hat will enable that person to share video footage of what he or she is doing, such as inspecting a device or conducting a repair. In that way, employees can accomplish audio and visual conversations with those who might be technical experts related to the work being done. The SOS button allows an individual to request emergency help, and the GuardHat can send that request via a Wi-Fi or cellular network.

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