Life Science - Designing Proximity Safety Systems

Transforming business processes for Life Science organisations through context & location aware mobile apps, integrated with allied technologies.

It’s of no surprise that decade’s old companies and industry sectors are gaining massive leaps in efficiency and employee productivity by applying mobile technologies to traditional paper based business processes. ‘Consumerisation of IT’ and the omni-presence of powerful portable computing devices makes these business transformations more accessible than ever before. What’s less appreciated however is that ‘tech savy’ BioTechnology organisations face the same pressures as many other industries in responding to reduced budgets and tighter operating requirements. New proximity technology coupled with Enterprise Mobility Apps, allows these everyday devices to make the previously complex and expensive process of scanning, tagging and tracking, far more efficient, accurate and cost effective.

Highly bespoke activity-centric apps (a concept Ovum has coined ‘soldier apps’) can now be developed far more quickly and incorporate greater security than ever before. Typically produced as Hybrid apps (HTML5 web apps wrapped in a native app shell), these offer best of all worlds. They can be very quick to produce with readily available web skills, they offer the same ‘evergreen’ functionality of websites meaning no need to constantly download app updates, yet they can access all the device functionality to provide a native user experience and incorporate advanced API integration for dynamic data sharing between an organisations existing backend systems.

Using such apps on a smartphone, smartwatch, tablet or Bluetooth linked device allows the user to interact with proximity beacons, RFID devices, QR codes and NFC tags. Such devices send a signal, alarm or prompt and the app reads that signal in the context of the user’s location, activity or authentication. This can trigger a variety of responses from the app depending on what that tag/ beacon is associated with. Beacons, still a relatively new technology, can for example, send text, audio, images or video to the users device within a predefined distance so the user is aware that they need to take action at a particular location.

Safety in LIfe Science Labs
Wearables in Safety

Designing an app with secure login and integrating that app with the organisations identity and access systems, means the options presented to each user under different scenarios can vary with their level of authority, controlled by the backend system. When the user moves into an area for example they can be authorised to open cabinets, operate equipment or move items from one area to another.

Further smartwatches, Bluetooth wristbands and even biometric clothing are becoming more common place and affordable, these can also interact with a user’s app to enforce security and/or monitor the wearer’s wellbeing. In many biotechnology and medical organisations, both government and commercial, the monitoring of staff movements is important. Traditionally managing secure access to specific areas is carried out by ID card or tag based security systems but proximity devices and mobile apps linked to wearables that monitor a user’s unique heartrate (ECG) or fingerprint scan can now provide a higher level of biometric authentication. Such technologies can even replace a user’s ID to access an app and before too long we’ll be at a point where we’re able to monitor basic functions of pulse, temperature, respiration and stress levels during their work activities.

Already these activity-based apps are being used in other industries to streamline and transform business processes. Organisation as diverse as airports, banks, local councils, construction firms, health and community care providers are uncovering both time and cost savings along with a better and deeper level of data capture. From a safety and compliance perspective these organisations are also using mobile apps to manage job risk analysis as well as confirming the level of competency of staff to perform high risk or skilled functions. Checking a user has the credentials to sign off on an activity and then activating alternate workflows for the transformed business process is another vital role activity-based apps can play.

From Government laboratories to commercial medical and biotech organisations the possibilities are endless in improving safety and efficiencies using these new integrated technologies.