Things are safer in a connected world

iotIn a previous post, we looked at how virtual reality and other technology-driven tools are revolutionizing the way we protect people on the job. These tools work by collecting data about us and our environment, and then using that data to nudge us into healthier, safer choices.

It’s traditionally been a private conversation between us and our devices. But here’s the thing: Our devices aren’t just talking to us anymore; they’re talking to each other.

It’s called The Internet of Things (IOT), and it operates on a simple premise: Any device that is connected to the Internet can share data with other connected devices.

Cisco estimates the number of connected devices worldwide will grow from 15 billion today to 50 billion by 2020. That makes for a ton of cyber chatter, much of which humans will be blissfully unaware of.

The IoT can be a bit abstract, so let’s consider a concrete application.

Have you ever put together what you thought was a comprehensive shopping list, spent two hours battling crowds at the store, gotten home and unloaded your groceries, only to find you forget the apples?

A new product from Samsung eliminates those fruitless shopping trips by connecting your smart phone and your refrigerator. It’s called the “Family Hub,” and Samsung equipped it with interior cameras that capture an image every time the door closes. If you’re second-guessing your shopping list, simply access the most recent photos and see what’s inside.

That’s great news for shoppers, but how does the IoT work on the jobsite, where one wrong move can cost someone their life?

Since traffic accidents are consistently the leading causes of workplace fatalities, let’s let the automotive industry put the IoT in perspective.

In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced an initiative that would require auto manufacturers to start phasing in vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology. V2V technology allows vehicles to collect information from other vehicles, as well as from their surroundings, and then warn drivers about hazards.

For example, a “connected” vehicle will alert you if a car ahead is braking or travelling in your blind spot. Similarly, the system will caution you if it’s unsafe to enter an intersection due to a high probability of colliding with another vehicle.

Now, any time vehicles that weigh tons meet at high speeds, the results can be fatal. But everyone has a fighting chance if they’re wearing their seat belts. That’s often not often the case when vehicles get too close for comfort with pedestrians and bicyclists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports motor vehicles killed 4,735 pedestrians in 2013. That same year, 743 bicyclists died in vehicle crashes.

In a DOT-funded pilot project, Tampa, Florida equipped smartphones with V2V technology that alerted drivers to the presence of bicylists and pedestrians. The DOT estimated the V2V technology used in the project could reduce the unimpaired vehicle crash rate by 80 percent. With that type of promise, it’s no surprise the White House bought in – to the tune of $4 billion. That’s how much the president requested for the development of V2V technology over the next decade.

Stay tuned
Technology is revolutionizing safety at a dizzying pace. Today’s trendy tools could be tomorrow’s relics. Follow our blog and stay up-to-date on the latest developments.

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