Whether you think technology is making our lives simpler or more dangerous, it is certainly pushing the capabilities of mankind forward, and in the right hands has been making the world a safer place to live in.
It would also behoove us to remember as we advance that not everything in technology has to do with business, military, or social media. Technology has the ability to keep us — and our industry — safe.
Augmented reality peaks and valleys as a technological trend. But the safety implications are great, from being able to look inside equipment on the plant floor that is causing trouble to a step-by-step instruction guide appearing next to a malfunctioning machine. There have been a number of apps available that try to utilize AR, and eyewear such as Google Glass is as close as we have been able to get to fruition. AR certainly isn’t adopted across the board given its somewhat disjointed development, but the future can be limitless if done correctly. How so? Imagine all that big data appearing next to the overheating engine or unruly plasma cutters. The less you touch these things, the less risk you put yourself in.
Drones have been used for everything from recreational activities to being our soldiers in the sky. But drones also have the ability to help us stay safe, especially when handling dangerous or corrosive substances. (I’m looking at you, chemical engineering.) We’re an industry that deals with both extreme heat and extreme cold, machines that can liberate fingers from our hands, and substances that provide terrifying chemical reactions when they come in contact with skin. We talk about how great our industry is, but there is always a level of danger present. Where these dangers are present are where operating remotely by sending in a robot to do your job might be safer than doing it yourself.
Real Time Location Systems
This can go two ways: the way we are currently using RTLS and the way we can use it. The way we are using it is tracking our employees responsible for distribution and delivery of our products, so we are constantly aware of their location and any precautions they should take in hazardous weather or a vehicle break down situation. But what are you going to do in your plant when your drivers are hundreds of miles of way? Location-based apps already exist, but it would be great if we had smart vehicles that automatically adjusted systems or GPS suggestions based on of its environment around them. Driving in an area of known rockslides? Suggest another route. Predicted rainstorm in 20 minutes? Pull over to the side of the road and wait it out. Vehicle crashed? Automatically send a signal to nearest emergency dispatch center. Our drivers should have access to immediate help based off where they are located.
And speaking of more safety for drivers, self-driving vehicles have been making strides in making the road a safer place to be. Already beginning to roll out, the thought is a little jarring. But it’s best to look at it as a pilot of a plane or the captain of a trip. They don’t have their hands on the wheel for the entire ship, so why should your drivers? They are not absent from the vehicle, but rather are managing the process and taking over the wheel if necessary. Why can this help? Self-driving cars are projected to reduce accidents by 90%, a stat that translates to commercial vehicles. Self-driving vehicles allows the “driver” more rest, less visual strain, hyper-awareness of surroundings, automatic braking, etc. All this leads to a safer, hybrid driver.
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