Smartphones have innumerable functions outside basic calling and text messaging, serving additionally as location trackers and lone worker monitors.

Smart devices are also increasingly being used as field data collection devices. As tools of a modern, industrial worksite, smartphones are portable and flexible communication nodes; points of data collection and analysis for ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) connected sensors; and powerful safety tools for lone workers in hazardous situations.

With their collection of different hardware sensors enhanced by software applications, smartphones are increasingly replacing dedicated hardware, such as radios, due to their smaller size and wider range of functionality. Smartphones incorporate the same communication functions that radios have, and can additionally perform the tasks of a handful of other legacy hardware devices, including computers, tracking devices, GPS beacons and other instruments. They are also compact, user-friendly, and come in an endless variety of models to suit the needs of every individual and organization.

To meet the needs of industrial workers, smartphones and tablet devices are being produced to be intrinsically safe, limiting the electrical power and current in the device to protect from igniting flammable dust and other particles, and allowing the device to be used safely in hazardous locations with explosion risks. Those devices are also built ruggedly for harsh outdoor and indoor environments, and to be usable while wearing protective equipment. Sonim Technologies, for example, offers intrinsically safe smartphone solutions with long battery life and loud speakers, making it a powerful successor to radio hardware with the use of a safety app. Kyocera also offers ruggedized smartphones that are built for hazardous environments, featuring fingerprint security and a wide-angle camera lens.

Working in isolation amplifies risk, and for lone workers, smartphone communication can be an important tool to ensure that they stay safe and informed of changes in their environment. In many jurisdictions, employers must perform risk assessments for work environments for where workers will be alone, while also providing the right communication technology to ensure that workers are properly supervised during their shifts. Furthermore, the convergence of enterprise information technology and worksite operations technology provide insight into trends that can be used to create better safety programs onsite.

Through the Lightship Works platform, status changes and check-ins can be communicated in real time through off-the-shelf smartphones, ensuring that every employee is accounted for while on duty. Lightship uses the device’s sensors for a tilt alarm feature, which detects if a worker falls and remains prone for longer than a few seconds, and will trigger a response that is predefined by the organization. For example, a tilt alarm could notify workers in a 2 kilometre radius to either respond or stand down, depending on the requirements of the situation. Alarms and notifications can also be triggered manually by the user, or by “geo-fencing”, meaning when a worker enters or exits a zone. In addition, simple panic buttons, like ones offered by Inovonics, can be installed into existing Lightship networks to instantly notify supervisors of dangerous situations.

For example, Crestwood Midstream Partners LP uses Lightship tilt alarms to protect lone workers on their oil and gas sites in Texas. When the smartphone detects a fall, the Lightship platform initiates the alarm procedure within 30 seconds, mitigating injuries on the worksite. Lightship helps managers gain more visibility over their worksite, emergency responders react more quickly and effectively, and lone workers become more secure and protected in their environment. To learn more about Lightship’s Industrial and Mining solutions connect with us here.

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