9 Ways to Use Industrial IoT for Industrial Safety
What is Industrial IoT?
The Internet of Things describes a wireless network of physical devices that are equipped with sensors and computing capabilities that can communicate with one another. These devices are embedded in a great variety of edge applications – for example, modern smartphones, watches, fridges, or autonomous vehicles are all considered IoT devices.
Industrial IoT is, in turn, the application of IoT in the context of transforming industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, logistics, etc.
In a technical sense, Industrial IoT does not differ greatly from consumer IoT applications, working on similar principles of wireless interconnectivity. Hence, it is not uncommon to see an overlap of technologies. Nonetheless, Industrial IoT stands out as one of the largest growing markets, with the global IIoT market predicted to reach an astounding value of $123 billion in 2021.
IIoT for Safer Industries
The power of IoT lies in its vast network of interconnected sensors, instruments and computing devices, which now allows us to collect, monitor and analyse data like never before. This gives rise to a variety of improvements that can be made on surveillance systems, monitoring systems, control systems to make industrial processes more reliable and safer!
Without further ado, let’s dive into the 9 ways to use IIoT for Industrial Safety!
1. Detect Environmental Hazards
Perhaps the most straightforward way to improve industrial safety with IoT devices is by using them to detect environmental hazards like toxic gases or substances. For example, by deploying gas sensors, operators can be easily and promptly alerted to the presence of harmful gases in the working environment. In doing so, actions can be taken to mitigate risks to worker health through an evacuation, or the source of the hazard can be quickly identified and eliminated.
Seeed offers a wide range of industrial-grade wireless environmental sensing solutions with the SenseCAP series. From smart agriculture, precision farming to smart cities, SenseCAP provides hardware (sensors, data-loggers, gateways), software (SenseCAP portal, mobile application, API) and versatile compatibility with different communication protocols, including LoRa, 4G, NB-IoT!
2. Maintain Operating Conditions
In industries, a deviation from the recommended operating conditions can represent a significant safety risk to workers. This is particularly important for industries which utilise high-performance equipment, such as in precision manufacturing or when working with dangerous substances and products. In a similar way to detecting environmental hazards, sensor-equipped IoT devices allow operating conditions of industrial processes to be monitored remotely in real time. In this manner, prompt action can be taken to mitigate safety hazards upon discovering anomalous operating conditions.
3. Preventative Maintenance
By extension, monitoring operating conditions can also play an important role in maintenance, specifically preventative maintenance. When data shows that operating conditions aren’t being met, it may suggest that maintenance action for that piece of equipment is required. Close, remote monitoring with IoT solutions enables timely action to be taken, avoiding the unpredictable safety hazards as well as the costs that may come along with complete failure.
4. Employ Failsafes
In some cases, however, monitoring and alerts may not be sufficient. For example, there may not be sufficient time to take effective action against a detected risk. A momentary lapse in human response to a given situation may also result in system failure.
Fortunately, IoT enables large scale implementation of what is known as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication, where different devices can communicate with each other and work in a cooperative relationship without human intervention. M2M communication allows failsafes to be developed using IoT systems, where mitigating actions can be automatically triggered upon an alert in the network. In this manner, a piece of equipment that has been found to be operating anomalously can be shut down immediately by the system and have its workloads rerouted to other machines automatically.
Note: M2M traditionally referred to simple device-to-device communications like you see above, and is thus often contrasted with IoT networks. However, it is more accurate to say that IoT is a new paradigm that has evolved from M2M thanks to improvements in wireless transmission technology – enabling what was already possible before but on a far larger scale and with greater utility.
5. Enforce Operating Procedures
M2M with IoT can also improve industrial safety through enforcing operating procedures. Your industrial processes may come with standard operating procedures that must be followed – often for safety reasons. However, these procedures may not always be followed as a result of human error, which could arise from negligence or fatigue. Needless to say, eliminating human error entirely is not possible.
M2M communications with IoT allow independent systems to be integrated with one another to ensure that procedures are followed in industrial processes. For example, if Process B is meant to be performed only after Process A, we can design the system to only allow Process B to proceed once it has received the go-ahead from Machine A, where Process A should have been completed.
6. Remote Monitoring: Logistics & Transport
With 5G wireless transmission technologies like NB-IoT and LoRa / LoRaWAN, long-range, low-power transmission now lends numerous possibilities to new applications in many industries. Among them, however, the logistics and transport sectors may have the most to benefit from improvements in road safety.
Transport operators spend countless hours daily on the road, with constant exposure to risks of road traffic injury. With IoT, remote monitoring can now be achieved to keep track of vehicle movement and driver conditions at regular intervals. On the other hand, reckless driving can also be deterred by monitoring driving behaviours and patterns. Such monitoring can enable better and safer fleet management decisions by deploying only those who are both physically and mentally fit to drive.
7. Aggregate Monitoring: Efficient Management
From a managerial perspective, it is extremely challenging to maintain a holistic view of industrial processes and worker conditions. Fortunately, IoT can address some of these challenges through aggregate monitoring – with some help from a human machine interface.
Broadly speaking, HMIs are components of industrial systems that allow humans to conveniently interact with it, usually through a graphical user interface. A well-designed HMI in IoT presents operational data in a comprehensive dashboard, allowing a holistic view of ongoing processes. In addition, it provides alerts and guides plant managers to take corrective actions.
For example, Seeed’s ReTerminal is designed to be the most comprehensive and user friendly HMI yet with its 5 inch LCD display, allowing a variety of natural interactions through computer vision, touch, gesture and voice. Powered by the powerful Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4, the ReTerminal is a versatile platform to build your HMI application to keep
8. Data Analytics & Machine Learning
If “data is the new gold”, then IoT networks are pretty much goldmines. And with the number of IoT connected devices expected to double up to nearly 40 billion by 2025, the IoT sector is improving our access to massive amounts of data in nearly all industrial processes! With advanced data analytics and even machine learning on the edge, we can leverage data to make better business decisions, and even equip our IoT devices to make predictions, process complex data, and administer solutions!
But what does this have to do with industrial safety? Well, augmenting our devices with smart capabilities will allow safety systems to be taken to the next level. For example, we can use computer vision systems to visually inspect factories for safety hazards, or even detect anomalies from the vibrations of machinery!
To handle machine learning workloads, a GPU capable system is often required. Seeed is proud to share our complete edge GPU clustering solution with the Jetson Mate and NVIDIA’s Jetson Nano / Xavier NX modules – the Jetson Mate Cluster! With a powerful NVIDIA GPU Cluster, you will be able to perform extensive
9. Monitor Worker Health
Finally, apart from monitoring industrial processes and machinery, it’s also important to keep an eye on the most important resources in any business’ arsenal – people! IoT enabled wearables like smartwatches are now commonly used to monitor workers’ conditions as they work, including posture, noise, and physiological data.
Hence, the visibility of operational movement can be improved, whereas the same data can also be used to better understand safety behaviours and trends in an effort to identify and remove common hazards in the working environment.