Keep IoT under your hat … your hardhat, that is

IoT is everywhere, but this application actually makes sense for construction sites.

GuardHat IoT hardhat
GuardHat Inc.

My wife is an architect, and she sometimes wears a hardhat to job sites. I’ve always thought her bright white hardhat was super cool, but it turns out her model is hopelessly behind the times.

When is a hat more than just a hat?

That’s because the latest hardhats are no longer just simple combinations of hard plastic and a shock-absorbing suspension so you don’t get knocked out if you walk into an exposed beam or something. The once-humble hardhat has now been upgraded to include Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities.

Michigan-based startup GuardHat Inc. has created an IoT hardhat that includes a beacon designed to continuously transmit data to a safety control center. The idea is for the system to use Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity to track each worker’s location for safety and worker management issues. Most important, GuardHat is built to be able to send alerts to the control center with the hat’s (and hopefully the worker’s) precise location — within 1 meter —  after a fall or other safety incident. (A built-in accelerometer can detect falls, and there’s also an SOS button to summon help.)

The smart hardhat is also able to notify nearby workers wearing a GuardHat — which also includes a camera and a microphone — so they can lend assistance quickly, which can be critical in many cases. Built to meet standard hardhat requirements, Guardhat can also sense whether the wearer is encountering dangerous conditions, such as carbon monoxide or other gasses — or is simply getting too close to moving machinery. Just as important from a management perspective, it can tell whether workers enter unauthorized areas, both in real time and after the fact.

Smart hardhat is part of an integrated management system

Data collected by GuardHat can be integrated with an open-source data-analytics software platform from HPCC Systems, originally developed by LexisNexis Risk Solutions. It includes a workflow processing and analytics platform called Thor and a real-time data delivery platform known as ROXIE. The platform lets users see workers’ location and status data around the job site, with each worker identified on a map. The historical data may also let managers design safer, more efficient work and traffic flows.

“The system is being tested by three oil and gas companies (in North America and Europe), while several metal and mining operations are preparing to deploy their own tests of the technology as well,” said Gerrit Reepmeyer, GuardHat co-founder and chief operating officer, in a statement.

The company says the devices will be commercially available by mid-2018, priced on a subscription model (per user per year), depending on feature set and certification level.

GuardHat pitches its system as “an intelligent and connected safety system programmed to reduce human error.” To a certain extent, that could describe the entire Internet of Things.

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