(Image: Microsoft)

Australian construction firm uses IoT for ‘smart helmets’ which keep workers safe

A new case study reveals how one company is using IoT technologies to keep their staff safe and productive.

Working in construction is dangerous at the best of times, but the safety risks to employees increases exponentially when taking on projects in the remote, baking deserts of Australia’s outback. Heat stroke is a constant threat, made all the more dangerous by its unpredictability and sudden onset.

International engineering firm Laing O’Rourke have taken the bold step of using IoT technology to keep their workers safe when working in troublesome locations. Working in partnership with MOQDigital, the construction firm have developed smart safety helmets fitted with Microsoft IoT technologies.

Speaking to Microsoft, Laing O’Rourke CIO Ryan Macnamee said: “The safety of our staff is paramount; we want to make sure our people go home safely every single day. And because of the climate in Australia, one of the issues we face is heatstroke; and the problem with heatstroke is, by the time you feel the symptoms, you already have it, so you need to have been warned well before you are exhibiting symptoms.”

The result of this case study is a smart hard-hat which looks pretty conventional, but is fitted with a number of sensors for data collection purposes. These sensors are able to monitor both the temperature and heart-rate of the wearer, as well as the external temperature and humidity. The data these devices collect is uploaded to the cloud before heading on through Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Power BI for analysis. The data is scanned for the patterns that show an employee is close to heatstroke.

If the wearer is at risk, the hard-hat will emit a warning sound and vibration – something along the lines of “Cool it! Head to safety!”. The safety system can also be report directly to site managers, warning them of teams at risk and in need of a break from the heat.

With both the potential and number of use cases for IoT technology increasing by the day, it may not be too long before we see more safety applications across industries where staff are at risk.