As things are beginning to open again, I’m hearing of some more solutions for protecting employees from Covid infection. Recently I interviewed the Early on during the pandemic, I interviewed several executives who had solutions for preventing the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as people either continued to work in manufacturing or would be called back at any time.
Founder/CEO of another such company–Soumi Eachempati, MD, FACS, FCCM, Co-Founder and CEO of Chelsea Health Solutions and Cleared4 and a former Professor of Surgery and Public Health at Weill Cornell Medical School.
Eachempati is sort of a “checklist guru” having formerly developed an app to be used in triage in emergency rooms when patients (or others) could answer a few quick questions on a tablet or phone to assist ER personnel expedite treatment.
Similarly, he maintains the manufacturing industry can protect their workers by implementing the following safety checklist:
· Identify, Test, Trace: The backbone of a solid identification strategy is a strong symptom monitor that identifies individuals who need to be tested and quarantined.
· Educate and Communicate: Educating workers about Covid-19 risks is as important as education on safety protocols and equipment use.
· Enforce Symptom Monitor Adoption: Less than absolute adoption is especially frightening when one considers that the individuals who do not participate may be the one most likely to harbor Covid-19 or its symptoms.
Back to the ER app, he had evolved the app into a flu checker. Then when Covid struck, and the app could be used to differentiate Covid from flu. Started Cleared4 to promote and sell the app.
Cleared4, a scalable, customizable HIPAA-compliant platform, helps organizations seamlessly monitor employee Covid-19 symptoms by quarantining those at risk and enabling low risk employees to return to school and work in keeping with the constantly changing state mandates. Cleared4 is a patent-pending health management platform that uniquely uses text messaging, health centric technologies, and on-site kiosks to obtain valuable health clearance for employees.
It is an SaaS application where companies (and others) can buy instances and are given private URL. Enter employees or other concerned people who need to be screened into the app via csv file. It’s a self-screener for now. Employee answers the questions on the app (also can input vital data like vaccines) and gets OK (or not) from the app. Obtains a personal QR code or the information is logged to the employee data in customer’s system. This allows entry into the building. Employees are tagged into geophysical groups. If someone reports Covid infection, app can be used to track who may have come into contact and notify them to monitor and test.
The platform is currently being used by at least one NBA and one NHL team, with more in negotiations.
Companies are also buying. A chemical company in Illinois, for example.
Could be available B2C for usual customers or even C2C say someone is giving a Bar Mitzva or arranging neighborhood playdates.
Knowing the number of times I’ve sat through safety videos at chemical plants, refineries, and the like and been logged in and given a card, I could imagine this app as part of the entire safety process. Great for contractors or vendors.
The main drawback I saw in the app was that it depended upon the person to enter their own information. I asked a friend who works at a chemical plant about this. He told me they had done a turnaround late last year with about 900 contractors on site. They used an active monitoring application called Triax with few instances of infection during the work.
I guess I believe that some of each may not be a bad strategy. (By the way, the Triax people never contacted me. I’m just reporting a customer experience.)
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, announced an expanded set of integrated, easy-to-deploy Edge and IoT solutions designed to enable organizations to bring employees back to physical workplaces safely. I am beginning to compile a number of solutions to returning to work or working with Covid. A doctor from Cornell University Medical Center talked with me about a solution he developed that is in queue for posting. I also heard about a solution used by a chemical plant during a turnaround with 900 contractors on site with almost no Covid cases experienced. This one uses already installed access points (or you can add a system).
Developed using Aruba Wi-Fi access points (AP’s), EnOcean 800/900MHz radios that insert into the AP’s, and compatible IoT devices from Aruba Technology Partners, these solutions monitor hoteling spaces, room occupancy, air quality, and cleaning/disinfection scheduling. By operating on customers’ existing Aruba infrastructure and leveraging cloud-based applications, the solutions can be rapidly deployed and eliminate the need for expensive IoT overlay networks.
As the world continues to adapt to new business realities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations are considering a myriad of return-to-work scenarios, including re-opening offices and safely bringing employees back in-person. Since IT infrastructure spans across the entire enterprise, it’s the ideal platform on which to build cross-organizational systems and processes encompassing social distancing, contact tracing, infection control, and space management. Flexible, cloud-native applications targeting these use cases can be quickly spun up – at minimal cost – as return-to-work initiatives are rolled out.
Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) provides the unified, secure, cloud-native network infrastructure that underpins EnOcean’s integration with Aruba. Plugging an EnOcean 800/900MHz USB adapter into a compatible Aruba AP enables communication with wireless IoT air quality monitors, presence detectors, light level sensors, and other devices that use EnOcean-developed protocols, wireless radios, and energy harvesting power sources. IoT data is streamed from the AP to the target return-to-work application over secure tunnels. Aruba ESP applies consistent security policies and provides unified management from a single point of control. Customers have the freedom to implement return-to-work solutions at any time, in both new and existing deployments, without ripping and replacing IT infrastructure.
Return-to-work applications and technology partners include:
Hoteling space management: Wireless sensors are ideal for managing the availability, occupancy, air quality, and cleaning requirements of hoteling spaces. DEUTA Controls’ EnoPuck visually identifies if a space is reserved, occupied, available, or vacated, while simultaneously monitoring air quality and light levels. Departure of an occupant can automatically trigger a request for cleaning and disinfection.
Occupancy management: To ensure compliance with social distancing and sanitation protocols, IAconnects’ Mobius Flow application manages people-counter and occupancy sensors to monitor the status of communal areas, e.g., washrooms, kitchens, and meeting areas. A “cleaning threshold” feature alerts maintenance when an area requires attention.
Smart restroom: The smart restroom solution from Nanjing Winshine checks traffic flow and occupancy of restrooms in real-time. Employees are alerted when the restrooms are unavailable, and the application can automatically generate work orders for cleaning and disinfection services.
Demand-oriented ventilation: Typically used in classrooms, public buildings and offices, Thermokon’s CO2 sensor solution contributes to demand-oriented ventilation to reduce the risk of infection. The solution currently measures CO2 within a particular area and activates the ventilation system to meet defined air quality standards. Temperature, relative humidity, and volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing will be available later this year.
Building management: The building management application from Titanium Intelligent Solutions manages lighting, energy, and space efficiency during shelter-in-place mandates and when curfews are enforced. Building functions are securely and remotely controlled via a simple, web-based application.
“The simplest, most automated, and cost-effective way to implement return-to-work safety initiatives is by deploying data-driven smart solutions on top of existing IT infrastructure,” said Michael Tennefoss, vice president of IoT and Strategic Partnerships at Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company. “Because of their ubiquitous deployment throughout enterprises, in locations that are ideal for wireless sensor communications, Aruba AP’s are ideal on-ramps for return-to-work IoT devices. As monitoring and safety requirements change over time, additional IoT devices can be added by tapping into the EnOcean Alliance, a vast ecosystem of vendors that have developed interoperable, self-powered wireless sensor solutions. Armed with this technology, organizations can re-open with confidence today using a future-proof platform that is ready for what lies ahead.”
Just received news about someone I know who has been recognized for her achievements in robot safety. The international group of remarkable women on SME’s list published today represent a comprehensive cross section of technologies in robotics and automation. The list was developed by U.S.-based Smart Manufacturing magazine published by SME in consultation with several leaders across the robotics and automation industries.
The list highlights the work of Roberta Nelson Shea, who joined Universal Robots (UR) as the company’s Global Technical Compliance Officer (GTCO) in 2016. She has long blazed the trail for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry; Nelson Shea was the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors of Robotic Industries Association (RIA) where she also participates in mentoring diversity efforts to get women more involved and recognized.
“From an engineering and management standpoint, women were and continue to be in the minority in the robotics industry. Fortunately, we are starting to see this slowly changing,” she says. “Since joining UR, I see more female engineers in software development, coding and user interface than I saw before.”
According to Robert Willig, executive director and CEO of SME, the industry still has miles to go in balancing diversity in manufacturing. “Those with the knowledge, creativity and drive to raise the level of technology and innovation can achieve success,” he says. “This group of women has not only the vision to create new products – and in some cases even new product categories – they also have the technological background and the business acumen to bring them to market and a willingness to teach others the processes necessary to make the next generations successful in our industry.”
Nelson Shea chaired the U.S. National Robot Safety Committee for 23 years, spent 40+ years within manufacturing automation, and is recognized as a global authority on robotic safety standards – most recently as Convenor of the ISO working group for industrial robotic safety (ISO/TC 299 WG3).
Collaborative robots – or cobots – remain the fastest growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.37% during 2020–2025. UR leads the cobot market, having recently celebrated the sale of its 50,000th cobot. The emergence of robots that work alongside human workers and their importance in advanced manufacturing has brought robotics safety into the spotlight, says Nelson Shea:
“I’m deeply honored to receive this recognition from SME. Robotics safety might be regarded as sort of the ugly stepchild in the industrial automation industry. It was not as sexy or jazzy as artificial intelligence, neural networks and other developing technologies within robotics,” she says. “UR changed this. When you have humans and robots working within the same space instead of separated– as was the case with traditional industrial robot applications – safety becomes much more complex and the nuances are very different. Safety now might mean that the robot slows or changes position compared to simply stopping. My overall mission is to demystify robotic safety and make sure the deployment barriers are broken down. I am an advocate of global harmonization of safety requirements to reduce costs of designs, manufacturing, and compliance.”
At UR, Nelson Shea works closely with R&D colleagues in the safety aspects of new UR products and use scenarios. She also fields questions from customers wondering if UR cobots can be used in specific applications in accordance with the robotics safety standards. “I really enjoy working at UR, the caliber of their engineers is superlative. It’s a very innovative environment where we’re constantly pushing the envelope to provide a better and easier-to-use robot.”
Nelson Shea was previously honored by the American Society of Safety Professionals as being one of the top 100 Women in Safety over the past 100 years. “I deeply believe that automation can be done in a safe way that works well for the people interfacing with the equipment while having high productivity,” she says. “Having a strong robot safety standard has contributed to the success of the industrial robotics market,” she concludes citing a favorite quote from John Lizzi, executive director of robotics at GE Global Research. “We see robots, and specifically industrial robotics, as moving through three phases: robots as tools to robots as partners and, ultimately, to robots that sustain the things we care about.”
Collaboration continues to be one of the key words in this pandemic season for operations in industrial plant safety—which includes Covid awareness. This collaboration targets employees in asset-intensive industries.
Collaboration will combine Honeywell’s IIoT connected devices and safety software with Wolters Kluwer’s risk and environmental, health and safety management software
Offerings will help customers in asset-intensive industries protect workers, adhere to compliance requirements and facilitate business continuity
Honeywell and Wolters Kluwer announced a collaboration to integrate Honeywell’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) connected devices and safety software with the risk and environmental, health and safety (EHS) software from Enablon, a Wolters Kluwerbusiness. The collaboration is designed to enable enterprises in asset-intensive industries to improve their risk, safety, and operational excellence programs.
The collaboration enables customers to monitor their EHS performance, receive early warnings about issues from their Honeywell equipment, and take proactive steps to help prevent incidents and improve safety compliance.
“With companies concerned about making a safe return to their facilities, we are offering a solution that aims to provide peace of mind to management in terms of both safety and compliance to keep up with ever-changing health and environmental regulations,” said John Rudolph, president, Honeywell Process Solutions. “Our new reality requires innovative solutions that enable both business continuity and help protect the health of their employees.”
Given the heightened uncertainty of today’s business environment, companies have an urgent need for a more holistic, integrated, enterprise platform to operationalize real-time data collected from human and machine input. By leveraging this data, companies can use actionable intelligence through the integration of technologies to mitigate safety risk and remain compliant with regulations.
Scenario – How it could work in today’s environment:
Before visiting the facility, Honeywell’s Digitized Workforce Management software provides an electronic questionnaire which, when complete, provides an access code and time of arrival to reduce the need for transfer of paper documents and improve social distancing.
At the entryway, the connected safety software solutions allow Honeywell’s artificial intelligence-driven elevated body temperature monitoring solutions to conduct non-invasive, preliminary screenings of personnel entering a facility.
The system also detects if individuals are wearing the required personal protective equipment needed for entering the building and if they are doing so properly, in compliance with safety regulations.
These data points and other manual data points are then reported to the Enablon EHS software.
Through a dashboard view, management can monitor workers to ensure that they remain compliant with rapidly changing health and safety regulations. The EHS solution also allows frontline operations employees to carry out measurements, checks and recordings directly in the field, without the need to walk back and forth to a control room.
By combining Honeywell’s connected safety portfolio and with Enablon’s software suite, customers can eliminate errors in recorded data and improve hands-on-tool time for operators.
“Our goal is to help predict and prevent accidents and out-of-compliance events before they happen,” said Chirag Shah, senior director, Product Management at Wolters Kluwer’s Enablon business. “To do this, companies need to act on data that comes directly from equipment and assets as well as data from workers and contractors in the field. Combining real-time human and machine data in an integrated solution will enable our joint customers to achieve the benefits of a digitized operation. By joining forces with Honeywell, we are helping our customers leverage the benefits of a true Industry 4.0 solution.”
Besides monitoring the health and safety of employees, the solution can also deliver environmental benefits. Today, industries must comply with environmental permits containing hundreds of specific requirements. The technology can monitor, control and report back on the health of these controls. Honeywell’s stationary and mobile solutions can be configured directly from the local environmental and regulatory permit conditions within local jurisdictions, providing early warning alerts to prevent non-compliance.
Years ago machine and process safety were first ignored and then addressed as an add-on. Then engineers began evaluating the problem and engineered safety from the beginning design. Not only was safety enhanced, but also reliability and productivity improved as well.
We are seeing the same thing already in response to solving problems due to Covid-19. I take a look at a variety of responses just in the first couple of months of the crisis.
This podcast is sponsored by Inductive Automation and its flagship Ignition 8.
In the 1960s a new, state-of-the-art automobile engine factory was built. As production settled in, new hires were shuttled through an introductory job. They were assigned the task of depalletizing engine blocks. Yes, 50-lb. to 75-lb. hunks of cast steel. Lifting from the pallet to the production line.
If you survived, you could move on to another department.
Technology ethically should be developed and deployed to make humans better. In this case a series of technologies from robots to ergonomic hand tools has made that plant—and all similar plants—much safer and humane.
One new technology to watch is exoskeletons. These are devices that will be a great help to humans performing tasks beyond human capability. Beyond manufacturing, think of the possibilities for assisting elderly or disabled people.
Here is a report from ABI Research detailing the latest on the market for these devices.
The Exoskeleton market continues to beat previous forecasts and will continue to attract outside attention from large-scale end-users, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies.
Though a technology that has been talked about since the sixties, exoskeletons are now beginning to demonstrate their practical value with worldwide shipments expected to reach 91,000 by 2023 and 301,000 by 2028. Global revenue for the suits will increase to US$5.8 billion in 2028, according to ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies. Industry will be the largest single market for exoskeletons, with hardware revenue in this sector growing from US$104 million in 2018 to US$2.9 billion in 2028; a CAGR of 39.5%
In terms of market revenue, the distribution is tilted heavily towards industrial and commercial applications. The industrial market for exoskeletons (including manufacturing, construction, utilities etc.) is expected to reach revenues of almost US$3 billion by 2028, while by the same time, commercial use-cases (notably health and warehouse logistics) will be worth over US$2 billion.
“The market gets healthier with each passing month. The culmination of start-up activity, an increasingly permissive regulatory environment, improving drive and materials technology, and partnerships with larger corporations suggest the exo-market is in the best position it has been,” said Rian Whitton, Robotics Research Analyst at ABI Research. Companies such as Sarcos, German Bionic, and Indego (Parker Hannifin) are driving adoption across both the industrial and healthcare sectors.
Exoskeletons can be distinguished into two broad categories; those with active or powered suits with a power source, and passive suits that don’t help lift so much as help distribute weight and improve the user’s comfort. Of these two, powered suits are going to be the primary source of revenue for the wider industry going forward due to their lift capability and increased utility.
Lower-body exoskeletons- which have both applications in the Health and Industrial markets, are likely to be the most numerous systems as they have wide use-cases across differing markets. However, upper-body exoskeletons that help amplify human lifting performance and keeping heavy objects in place will be adopted at a faster pace in the industrial space. Already, companies like Ford are deploying upper-body powered devices from Ekso Bionics in their factories. Comau has teamed up with Ossur to build a passive upper-body exoskeleton for industrial use, while German medical giant Ottobock has leveraged its expertise in prosthetics to build passive industrial exoskeleton. German Bionic is offering a powered suit that provides lumbar support to workers in industrial and intralogistics environments and is building on the opportunities of Europe by targeting distributors in Japan- where the strategic drivers of exoskeleton demand, labor shortages, and aging workforces- are even more acute.
Full-body exoskeletons, particularly powered variants, are generally more expensive than their partial counterparts, yet their development holds the promise of more comprehensive solutions that significantly amplify human capability, both in terms of lifting heavy objects and preserving stamina in laborious occupations. Among the leaders in this field is Sarcos Robotics, who plan to launch to heavy-duty full-body suits next year under a service model. The technology is being anticipated by a wide range of vendors, including GM, Delta Airlines, Caterpillar, and construction giant Bechtel.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Robotic Exoskeletons Annual Update report. This report is part of the company’s Robotics, Automation & Intelligent Systems research service, which includes research, data, and Executive Foresights.