Technology companies have been offering consumers increasingly clever solutions in wearable tech over the past few years. But the trend has achieved too modest a success so far Google’s goggles are seen as a gimmick and Apple won’t release sales figures for its smartwatch.
However, researchers at IBM’s labs in Haifa are trying a different less sexy approach that might pay off in the long run. The company decided to develop sensor analysis systems for wearable tech products designed for organizations, instead of private consumers, and intended to prevent workplaces accidents.
Asaf Adi, a senior manager of Internet of Things and Wearables at IBM Haifa Research Lab, explained to “Globes” the ‘hype’ around wearables has been focused on lifestyle and not in how to improve the operations of corporations a much more significant niche.
“There are many instances in which an employee cannot use their smartphone or sensors because they need the use of both hands,” said Adi. “Wearables can improve many processes medical ones for example but we chose to implement wearable tech in the workplace to increase safety. A lot of physical and financial damage is caused by these accidents. In the US, the total cost is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of casualties, and tens of thousands of workplace accidents each year.”
He continued: “We realized that if we can integrate data from sensors in smart helmets, vests, and gloves, we can better understand what the worker is doing and where he is at the time. We can collect the data and identify situations in which he is at risk like exposure to extreme temperatures, noise, and gas and use the sensors to send alerts to the worker and the control center even before an accident occurs; if an accident has occurred, we can speed up treatment.”
Currently, the Haifa lab is conducting a pilot program at a steelworks in the US. Adi said the necessity for such safety equipment is especially high among those employed in agriculture and mining who often work alone in remote locations. Furthermore, the control units can recognize correct movements like lift angle as well as overexertion and dehydration.
What about the employee’s privacy? Is it not compromised if their every movement is followed?
“The idea is not to track an individual but to provide the employer data only when there is a danger. At the steelworks, for example, the issue of heat exposure is paramount, and the worker is not always aware. Regardless, the information on employees’ location is not uploaded to the cloud or preserved in a manner that compromises their privacy,” promised Adi.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 18, 2015
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