Mining - Proximity Safety Systems

Enterprise Mobility Apps can provide intelligent safety solutions for the resources sector through context & location aware Apps when integrated with proximity technologies. There has never been more pressure on the resources sector to improve health and safety for staff, boost productivity, and make cost savings than in the current economic climate. New proximity technology coupled with Enterprise Mobility Apps, allows these everyday devices to make the previously complex and expensive process of providing safety systems for staff and equipment, far more efficient, accurate and cost-effective.   Client specific 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 organisations existing backend systems. This ability to integrate with corporate systems, unlike stand-alone apps, allows  an organisation  to receive and send real-time safety data.

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.  The new industrial beacons operate from -20C to +60C, are shatterproof,  anti-static and waterproof to 10 metres so can be used in difficult environments.

Safety in Mining
Safety Apps in Mining

So in a mine setting, this means that safety systems can be set up around predefined zones. Take for example a hazardous area. The user can be notified when they move in or out of a predefined area, with the action they need to take (donning PPE equipment for instance) displayed on the smartphone or linked device (e.g. a smartwatch). Because such apps are designed to harness all manner of ancillary technologies you could even interact with other alarm systems to display a warning message on a separate screen alerting other staff in the area. Further, such apps can connect to existing monitoring, testing and measuring equipment to allow an automatic and accurate recording of results.

Further smartwatches, Bluetooth wristbands and even biometric clothing are becoming more commonplace and affordable, these can also interact with a user’s app to enforce security and/or monitor the wearer’s wellbeing. In many 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 heart rate (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.