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Health & Safety in a Digital Workplace

by Mark Maguire, Chief Technology Officer, Fujitsu Northern Ireland

Given the pace of digital transformation in the last decade and the generational shift in people’s attitude towards the use of technology, businesses are placing a greater emphasis on the need to futureproof their workplaces. Part of meeting this exciting challenge is understanding how technology can deliver effective solutions that also add knowledge to an organisation.

It can be hard to appreciate the true value and potential of emerging technology trends like Artificial Intelligence (A.I), the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data without seeing practical, everyday applications. These aren’t abstract concepts used only to build robots or self-driving cars, rather their principles can be applied to overcome real, every day challenges across sectors.

An area of particular focus for us is how technology can be used to tackle traditional workplace issues such as health and safety with simple, innovative tech that adds real value. One way in which we are doing this is through a range of internet enabled wearable devices that harness the power of IoT and can be easily incorporated into everyday routines by businesses and employees.

For example, our ‘Driver Drowsiness Detector’ is a wearable device that helps protect drivers, pedestrians and other road users from the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel. The detector works by monitoring the driver’s biorhythms via a sensor attached to the earlobe. It gauges drowsiness levels before they can have an impact on reaction times and notifies the driver via vibrations on part of the device worn around the neck. As well as instantly warning the driver, the device can be linked to fleet-management systems so managers can monitor the conditions of their drivers in real time and provide support based on the data collected. With an estimated 40% of commercial vehicle accidents in the UK occurring due to driver fatigue, this cutting-edge technology is a simple but very effective way to help protect road users while providing businesses with a tool that can help them optimise routes.

While protecting people in a static workplace like an office can be relatively straightforward, doing so in an operational environment such as warehouses, factories, on roads or in potentially hazardous situations such as working at height, can be considerably more complex.  Wearable technology can help overcome that complexity and support businesses as they strive to prevent employees coming to harm.

If you have an engineer working out in the field for example, historically you would only know their status and location if they provided that information to you. Through wearable devices such as our ‘Vital Sensing Band’ or ‘Location Badge’ – both of which are small and lightweight – businesses can accurately monitor the location of workers and their health and safety through a range of sensors with alerts pre-defined to trigger in event of an incident such as a fall.

Many of our wearable devices are already being successfully used in Japan and trialled by companies in the UK with the resulting data aiding decision making and planning. Every business in Northern Ireland has already experienced digital disruption and transformation to some degree. From smart phones through to card-readers, Bluetooth headsets and online reporting, we have all embraced aspects of connective technology to stay competitive and enhance productivity. IoT enabled wearable devices is a critical next step on this journey as we look to future proof and protect our businesses.