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Building a personal safety system with IoT sensors

RMIT and CSIRO researchers are working to improve personal safety in the mining industry, by developing wearable personal safety systems.

These systems detect if a worker’s personal protective equipment is not being worn correctly, or is not working properly. They can then send smartphone alerts about the issue.

The RMIT side of the project was concerned with developing Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that underpin the solution. The result is a system called PPEofThings.

Dr Prem Jayaraman from RMIT explains that the system allows mine operators to monitor the safety of people on site, provide real-time, location-specific alerts, and improve communications.

“It works by making a miner’s clothing ‘intelligent’, with embedded sensors on all their personal protective equipment – safety glasses, helmets and even boots – which then monitor and inform mine personnel of potential safety hazards, like if they’ve forgotten to use safety glasses,” he explained.

“The system can even differentiate between whether they’re being worn in the right or wrong way.”

A sophisticated system of IoT sensors, coupled with wireless technology and smartphones help provide personalised safety, with each mine personnel’s qualifications and experience factored into the system.

The system utilises low-cost, energy-efficient off-the-shelf Bluetooth sensors such as iBeacon and TI SensorTag, attached to regular PPE clothing, including helmets and safety glasses, to provide real-time safety situation-awareness and predict health and safety incidents before they occur.

In 2015, PPEofThings won the Unearthed Melbourne Hackathon, and is now receiving backing from the Victorian Government and mining company Anglo American for a commercial release.

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