The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term that has only come into existence in the last decade. It describes the way that connectivity is transforming everyday items into internet-enabled connected devices. IoT week (17-21 June 2019) is a time for a celebration of connected devices to shed a light on the future of technology and its impact on life.
The amount of progressive systems for IoT devices has grown exponentially over the last decade. With this growth comes the potential use-cases in high-risk EHS industries. There are many positive ways that IoT devices can reduce the risk of incidents. However, with such advanced technology taking over the roles of human interaction, this may present further complications in the workplace.
- IoT devices allow companies to keep track of employee welfare with wearable technology. This technology will collect biometric data, like heart rate and blood pressure. This not only provides valuable information in the field of welfare but may help to reduce the risk of a heart attack or a medical-related incident.
- IoT wearable technology may give an insight into any possible symptoms or trends that the employee may be exhibiting. By understanding the data of employee activity, managers and medical staff can work on reducing risk. The result: a safer and better-quality work environment.
- IoT devices will help your business highlight possible mental health issues in employees. For example, facial recognition software could be used to identify when an employee is feeling stressed. This could lead to a change in position to improve employees’ mental health and welfare.
- IoT devices are able to detect pollution and natural disasters.
- Devices can (and do) monitor emissions from factories to minimise air pollution.
- Devices can track the release of harmful chemicals.
- IoT devices are currently used to send warnings of earthquakes or Tsunamis by detecting tremors.
This smart environment helps your business recognise risks that may have been previously hard to detect, creating safer work conditions for your employees.
- IoT devices can provide smart alerts for employees when they are entering or exiting hazardous areas.
- IoT devices can notify employees if environmental conditions change. For example, if a storm is approaching, a device could notify employees to take shelter.
- The adoption of IoT devices will help reduce human intervention in the collection of risk data.
- Physical objects like machinery are controlled and connected with wireless infrastructure. Machines are able to communicate with each other, leading to a faster and timely output. This will reduce the risk of human interaction with machinery. This will not only create more efficiency but decrease the risk at the same time.
- Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication enables physical devices to stay connected. An analysis is conducted faster than human involvement, leading to fewer inefficiencies. This in turn, will create greater quality.
Privacy and Security
- To date, IoT devices have a bad security record. While this is improving, using IoT devices could mean that insecure devices are running on your network. A hacker could infiltrate your network, enabling them to steal private information.
- Whenever data is transmitted, there is a risk of losing privacy. Security is therefore extremely important. Businesses need to ensure IoT devices receive regular security updates and patches.
- IoT advances enable GPS tracking on employee movement. This ability to track employees does not end when an employee heads home for the day. An employer must be conscious of any data collection that continues outside the workplace. This could be seen as an invasion of privacy to the employee, causing a feeling of insecurity.
- Could the transmission of employee biometric data negatively affect mental health? Employees may feel that they are being ‘judged’ without knowing, or that they are being unnecessarily tracked.
- IoT could cause employees to feel threatened that their job may be taken by more advanced machinery. This could lead to the distress of your employees.
IoT devices have many positives for EHS professionals. Not only can they reduce the risk for workers, but they can improve employee welfare and operation efficiency. As the IoT revolution continues to evolve, it is important to stay informed about risk and safety standards and make sure products meet regulatory requirements and the demands of consumers.