In the consumer world, the Internet of Things (IoT) is exploding in popularity, mostly with wearable technology from leading vendors like FitBit, Apple, and Garmin to name just three.

Applications vary, but the most popular is sport and health devices to measure heart rate, steps, stairs climbed, and monitor sleep duration and patterns.  These consumer devices are linked to your smartphone and often to web portals so users can interact and log their performance and progress.

In the commercial world, such as in Mining, Oil, and Gas industries, these wearable devices are gaining attention for productivity, situational awareness, and safety reasons.  A variety of innovations are seen for these industries.  Here are a few of the more interesting and innovative devices showing up on the market.

A camera mounted on the worker’s helmet provides video logging of the work activities and live streaming to the surface as well as to analytical processing and man-machine interfaces for intuitive control of machinery.

The wrist computer is a more convenient and portable user interface for machine control and communications.  Interactions with pointing devices can provide novel and faster control over machines.

The visibility vest or jacket is standard equipped at every site for safety purposes to help workers to be seen.  But, by adding IoT devices and communications into the vest, machines can be aware of worker proximity and automatically brake to prevent an accident.  With embedded technology sensing the worker and transmitting a myriad of worker’s vital signs in real-time, the vest can send out warnings when environmental conditions become dangerous, even if the worker is not aware of the situation themselves.

A variety of IoT devices from sensors, smart sensors, and actuators can be applied to the workers clothing for interactions and data capture.

When properly equipped, workers become sensors of the local environment and the sensor readings can be fed back to the surface for correlation and modelling to form a real-time bigger picture view of the environment and the worker.  Air quality and quantity, gas detection, temperature, humidity, water levels, and more, can all be gathered from the worker’s wearable technology and shared with the mine management for analysis and decision-making.

Wearable vision systems integrated into the safety glasses provide telemetry, measure distances, display checklists, and snap pictures all while connected to a cloud to share the point of view of the field workers with the knowledge workers.

Whatever sensors and controllers are used, the worker can become enabled as a source of data capture and streaming.

As the GE graphic above shows, that even if 1% of saving are earned over a period of 15 years, the dollar value saved is in the billions and the return on investment is substantial.  In these hard economic times, every dollar saved can flow to the bottom line.  But, wearable technology can provide less tangible returns too, especially when applied for worker safety purposes which is paramount at every site.

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About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).  He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.

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