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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

For management, the GuardHat provides a variety of functions. With regard to worker location, managers can open the Web dashboard to view where workers are located, indicated as dynamic points of interest on a display of the area map. GuardHat's wireless beacon devices installed around a facility enable a particular hard hat to be located via a combination of all geo-location technologies.

The HPCC Systems software identifies actionable information, such as detecting a dangerous situation—for instance, the presence of gas or chemicals—and can raise an alarm accordingly. The system can also evaluate the relevance of the sensor and location data; for example, a single GuardHat sensor reporting could be an anomaly, but multiple responses from hard hats in the area would require immediate alerts.

GuardHat's Gerrit Reepmeyer
"The system is very customizable," says Flavio Villanustre, LexisNexis Risk Solutions' VP of technology and the head of HPCC Systems. "Supervisors can get an alert" in the event that they wish to know immediately if an unauthorized activity occurs, such as an individual entering an area where he or she is not permitted. Alternatively, they can program the system to simply collect information for historic reference, transmit a text message, or display visual and audio alerts on the hard hats themselves. The solution can be hosted in the cloud, or be integrated on a user's back-end system.

Users can leverage historical data from the Thor software platform to view the movements of workers over time, and to better manage workflow accordingly, in order to improve efficiency on a worksite. The technology also works in a lone worker scenario, such as a single employee in a remote area—for instance, driving around a well for the purpose of condition inspection. In this case, the system can utilize a local Wi-Fi network, such as a system installed on a vehicle, or a cellular connection to forward data regarding that individual's movements and nearby conditions.

"At the end of the day, the hard hat is just a device," Reepmeyer says, while building the intelligence from its own sensor software and the HPCC Systems platform makes the collected data actionable. The company founders' experience in the steel industry, he adds, has resulted in an intuitive product that solves problems in the field or at production sites without unnecessary, high-priced technology that other companies might develop. The firm expects most customers to initially deploy the technology to boost safety, while the operational efficiency that could result might be the next step in their deployment.

Reepmeyer expects users themselves (workers in industrial environments) to adapt to the technology organically. "You see everyone in a plant already using devices," he states—not only smartphones, but exercise systems counting steps, for instance. Now, the GuardHat system will provide workers with improved safety, he says.

Once testing is completed, Reepmeyer reports, GuardHat intends to roll out its solution commercially, sometime in mid-2018.

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