Technology has changed our world. It has changed the way we communicate, shop, bank, buy, collaborate, and conduct business. It has made our world one global marketplace. It has also changed the way traditional industries such as manufacturing, oil, and gas, mining, petrochemical, etc., operate.
Yet, technology innovations in industrial workers’ safety remain limited or practically non-existent, if compared to the progress made in consumer space or other technologically-oriented enterprises. It’s almost as if technology centers like Silicon Valley and New York are unaware of the problems faced by the blue-collar working population across the Midwest and elsewhere. Even in this day and age, we are inundated with news of workplace fatalities or occupational incidents. Our workers who wake up every day to work deep in the mines, hazardous construction sites, oil rigs, and other industrial workplaces need better safety measures than what companies are currently affording them. We need to do more—much more—about this.
Solutions designed to address the workers’ safety issues need to have the context of these work environments. These workplaces have a unique set of challenges that need to be considered for a successful solution, and one that does not fall flat on the shop floor because assumptions were made about people’s familiarity and comfort with technology, the availability of ubiquitous connectivity, and an always accessible and monitorable work environment.
Guardhat was born out of this realization that it is imperative to keep those who put their lives on the line every day by creating meaningful solutions with a deep understanding of the everyday experience of the workers and complete acceptance of their limitations and their work environments. Our solutions are more than just another hardhat with a retrofitted sensor and are true workplace safety and productivity solutions that have been built with these perspectives in mind.
1. What is Guardhat?
Guardhat is a comprehensive real-time situational awareness system, built specifically to deliver industrial workplace solutions. We integrate breakthrough technologies such as industrial IoT, multimodal communications, RTLS, sensors, video, and big-data analytics, into our wearables (hardhats, tags, …) and the purpose-built IoT software systems. The Guardhat ecosystem comprises of three pillars:
The Hardware: Our breakthrough wearables, (hardhats, tags, beacons, and mobile app solutions) are the physical devices that provide the last mile connectivity, and provide the localized solution features to the worker.
The Platform: Our proprietary industrial IoT platform (Kyra) is the workhorse behind the scenes. This software communicates with the devices and workers, enables peer-to-peer communication, analyses the data, generates advanced analytics and reports and delivers the contextual awareness and critical field of vision across the entire system. This Industrial IoT bus can be deployed on-premise or on the cloud, and works alongside the communication and RTLS infrastructure. Key operational features such as geo-location, real-time sensor data, and audio/video communication are built in to provide an unparalleled, real-time insight into the operating environment of the workers. The platform is extensible by design. It has APIs for integration with 3rd party hardware and software, which lets the system interoperate with existing and compatible systems.
The Applications: The Guardhat ecosystem provides multiple solutions using custom-built applications. The flagship Safety Control Center (SCC) web-based application provides the worker’s safety, location tracking, real-time audio-visual communication, sensor-based event detection, and other capabilities. It also uses Kyra’s big-data analytics engine to deliver dependable and actionable intelligence allowing you to be more proactive. In addition, the companion Rhea mobile app provides the mobility extension of the applications, allowing interaction with the system in the field.
2. How comprehensive are the safety features?
Guardhat is not your run-of-the-mill safety solution. We understand that safety has to extend beyond just compliance and ideally is about prevention. Our experience in these challenging environments has given us the understanding that to implement safety there needs to be a behavioral shift in the workplace. Such a shift can only occur when the corrections are made in real-time and are presented with targeted, in-context information. This means that the worker is informed about a potential safety error before or at the time the error is being made, to prevent this and future incidents from happening.
The key benefit of real-time situational awareness is that it helps you identify many of the root causes of safety incidents, as and when they present themselves. The RTLS location, geo-fencing, sensory evaluation of the immediate environment, and audio-video communication give you further insights into the actual falls; man-down; panic-assistance requests; restricted access area violations; dangerous proximity to equipment, hazmat or vehicles; and more; to ensure that the safety of the workers is not compromised.
3. How remote can the remote support go?
Guardhat’s solutions provide audio-visual telephony and media capture capabilities that allow field workers to record and transmit real-time video streams and carry out conversations with their remote colleagues and experts, who may be on the other side of the world. In addition, the wearable devices wirelessly transmit sensor, locations, and other data in real-time to the backend for immediate visualization on the SCC system. The system uses wide-angle low-light camera systems to allow operation in less than ideal lighting conditions, such as in mines.
The system also provides call-conferencing and call-tree capabilities, and our multimodal wireless connectivity solution ensures the last mile of connectivity in even the hardest to reach places. This real-time audio-video support helps you resolve most of the challenges promptly and leads to higher productivity and shorter downtime. Staying connected with your workforce, whether deep in a mine or on a mobile rig, has never been this easier.
4. How does Guardhat improve productivity?
Yes. The Guardhat ecosystem is not only for safety but a productivity platform as well! Many of the safety features in our ecosystem (RTLS, communications, contextual awareness, 3rd party system integration) can be applied equally well for workplace productivity and process efficiency improvements.
As an example, the system can be used for time-and-motion studies using the location and timestamped events; it can be used for field communications using the AV telephony feature, the asset tracking via RFID or BLE tags can be used for augmenting the MRO and asset management functions (more on that later), and the available integrations into E&HS and ERP systems such as SAP or IBM Maximo can extend the reach of those systems to the worker using the Guardhat system.
The system is already in use at multiple locations today performing functions unrelated to workers’ safety: for example: providing remote communications in hazardous locations, tracking and reporting on inspection compliance for pipeline runs and detecting proximity to forklifts in a warehouse environment. In addition, using advanced analytics, Guardhat can help you with on route planning, identify wasteful efforts (such as time taken for people to locate tools, etc.), increase transport competencies, improve layout design and improve operational efficiencies.
5. How does Guardhat enable preventive maintenance?
The network of wearables, beacons, and sensors that we employ gives you deep insights into the work environment and its conditions. The data logging, collection, and analysis capabilities give the ability to identify potentially serious issues and emerging conditions before they occur. A unique characteristic of the Guardhat solution is that the wearable devices on the worker also act as data loggers, which provides a much broader sampling of relevant data from locations where static sensor networks are not deployed.
The system can also link up with static /area sensors (via hardware or using software integration) and can geo-stamp the data to produce maps that visualize (in real-time) environmental conditions such as gas levels, temperature, noise, etc., to help identify potentially hazardous situations. Timely intervention using these tools helps reduce downtime and the negative productivity impact.
6. Asset Management in a safety solution? Is that even possible?
As we said earlier, Guardhat is more than just about safety. It can help you in asset management as well. MRO equipment such as tools, batteries and other assets are frequently lost or misplaced. Many such equipment either have an RFID tag or increasing are smart tools that are Bluetooth enabled. However, most organizations find it hard to trace or to even connect the equipment since many sites do not allow the worker to carry smartphones, which is what many such connected tools assume as the hub or connectivity end-point.
As part of the connectivity suite, the Guardhat wearables can operate as Personal/Body Area Network (PAN/BAN) hubs. This network allows the workers to connect the smart equipment with the wearable when in range, or identify the assets using the existing RFID/NFC tags. This connection or asset identification data can then be used locally on the wearable itself to perform various MRO or EAM functions or be sent over to a dedicated system for post-processing. Also, since all such connections or asset identification is automatically geotagged and timestamped, this immediately provides clear visibility into asset location, usage patterns, and asset movement.
Some of the smart tools can also tether more deeply with the Guardhat system, and the worker can manage and control the equipment operation, for example, by using tool torque settings by zone, defining machine usage timings, or disabling services in specific areas using the geofencing or proximity detection capabilities.
We hope this post answers most of your questions regarding Guardhat and its capabilities. We believe that fatalities and accidents in industrial workplaces are addressable, and need to be solved. We also believe that the right technology coupled with experience, and cognizance of the unique challenges these environments have, is the only approach that can provide the right solutions. Our solutions did not emerge as technologies looking for a use-case, but rather from people who have the experience and understanding of the challenges in these work environments. The technology in our case is mere as an enabler of the solution and will continue to evolve.
Connect with us to take a deep dive into the Guardhat universe and explore how Guardhat can make your work environment truly connected, more productive, efficient, and inherently safer.