Real-time integration of people, processes and systems will shape the industries of the future, enabling higher operational efficiencies at reduced cost. Even today, the use of digital tools such as smartphones and tablets are improving safety, productivity and security in hazardous areas. Companies who deploy these digital tools benefit from more efficient workflows, effective maintenance and streamlined decision-making processes as well as higher profit margins. As the Industrial Internet of Things gathers pace, wirelessly connected data loggers, portable gas detectors, and personal health monitors are becoming available. ecom’s Mobile Worker platform wirelessly integrates these devices with the digital tools, delivering a step change in flexibility and future-proofing. It provides a solid foundation to build on, with an unmatched choice of products proven to work wirelessly together to maximize workforce productivity and protection – essential elements for the prolonged future sustainability of companies with hazardous areas.
Transparent, complex processes and high data accuracy requires digital solutions
Many industrial companies today continue to use yesterday’s technologies to plan, execute, manage and control their business processes. Due to a lack of alternatives or purely out of habit (“we’ve always done it this way”), many tasks are still performed with clipboard and paper. These archaic methods bring increased risk and inflexibility to the business, being error‐prone and inefficient. They also lead to mobile workers carrying more than they should when walking around the site, creating a potential safety issue.
ecom instruments was the first manufacturer to develop an ex-certified mobile phone, and has launched numerous innovations for mobile communication in hazardous areas over the last 30 years. The latest devices, the world’s first and only 4G / LTE Android Tablet Tab-Ex 01 and the 4G / LTE Android Smartphone Smart-Ex 01 for use in Zone 1/21 and Division 1, open up the advantages of the Internet of Things. They modernize data capture and simplify voice/video collaboration between the mobile workforce and the experts at the control centre. The devices also enable real-time access to digital work order documents, permits and drawings whilst supporting a range of wirelessly connected devices – reducing what the mobile worker has to carry and reducing the overall investment cost. The weight, performance and battery life of the digital tools is also optimised – a major benefit for the mobile worker when out on the job.
Benefits of professional applications and innovative hardware
For the first time, digital tools have the performance necessary to run a variety of professional software applications, providing the platform to create new solutions to meet the increasing challenges in hazardous areas (Zone 1/21 and Division 1). One such application is ecom’s CamScan Keyboard app. This app allows – even offline – barcodes (1D, 2D and QR codes) to be scanned and processed by simply using the camera of a smartphone or tablet. By minimizing the use of free-hand text, operators begin to record more consistent data, enabling easier manual or even automated analysis and reducing the risk of human error. Thus, incorrect input and poorly transcribed records can be avoided entirely.
Apps such as CamScan only need to run when required, however other apps, such as “Man-Down-Alarm” apps need to run all the time, even when other apps are running, without overloading the digital tool. This is when high performance digital tools are essential. Having the flexibility to add wireless devices to complement the existing capabilities of the digital tool are also essential. When scanning barcodes, some use cases require repetitive scanning (200+ scans per hour), long range scanning (up to 15 meters), or need to scan challenging barcodes. For these use cases, ecom offers innovative hardware based solutions like the Ident-Ex 01 and i.roc Ci70-Ex. Ident- Ex 01 is a powerful, intrinsically safe Bluetooth “All-in-One” barcode scanner and RFID reader. i.roc Ci70-Ex is the first intrinsically safe PDA with WWAN, each with changeable head modules (RFID, 1D / 2D barcode or combined head modules) for customer specific configuration.
Overcoming challenges with mobile devices
Many challenges in hazardous areas can be solved with the use of these digital tools. Accurate and timely information regarding the position and condition of mobile workers, equipment and material are critical for all companies, enabling predictive maintenance, the safe storage and transport of sensitive goods, and better visibility and control to prevent unplanned downtime and safety incidents.
In conjunction with a smartphone, tablet or handheld computer designed for use in hazardous areas, the mobile worker can retrieve current information about the status of machines or their parts on the screen of their device. He communicates in real time with the specialist staff located at the control centre, reports any damage, retrieves information on demand and receives guidance. Any data updates made in the field are transferred directly into the company systems, allowing quicker decision making and reduced unplanned downtime. Furthermore, the technicians are much better protected on site by the permanent connection to the control centre. Lone worker protection systems can warn the control centre automatically when a worker has an accident or can notify and warn the worker of any hazards as they move into an area.
New paths through innovation and flexibility
With Pad-Ex-01, the new Windows10 tablet PC with Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, the desktop becomes mobile for field workers and their managers within hazardous areas. It complements or even substitutes desktop PCs, laptops and wall mounted displays, maximizing the efficiency & productivity of mobile workers whilst improving ease of use and minimizing costs. And, for sites with no wireless access, Pad-Ex 01 provides the flexibility to work offline, preventing costly infrastructure updates.
Opening up new fields of innovation, ecom has introduced Bluetooth beacon technology (as seen in the consumer sector) for hazardous areas. The Loc-Ex 01 BLE beacons are small radio beacons that use Bluetooth Low Energy signals at periodic intervals to provide proximity awareness. In combination with mobile digital tools (smartphone or tablet) they bring the ability to augment digital and physical data into a single, unified business intelligence unit – providing a low cost, basically maintenance free way to roll out and connect custom data to backend systems.
The beacons are all about gaining insights to operations and asset information based on exact locations, such as log-in data, average dwell times, number of engagements, temperature measurement and other metrics. By recognizing a user´s device and user data, they not only provide a secure physical access and guard control system, but also give mobile workers piece of mind if any accident were to occur – they can be located and rescued in the fastest way possible via Lone Worker Protection (App Solution). This significantly reduces the workers exposure to risks, improving the overall safety of operations.
Partner network with global market leaders
In collaboration with a long-standing partner network of manufacturing and development partners including global-leading companies such as Airbus, Honeywell, Samsung and Sonim, ecom is driving the digital transformation in hazardous areas. A key component is the ecom Mobile Worker platform, a flexible and integrated wireless ecosystem built around rugged and explosion-proof mobile computers (tablets, smart phones, PDAs), wireless peripheral devices (headsets, scanning and measuring devices, docking stations) and smart software applications – complemented by specialised service offerings and support.
For more information, please visit ecom’s website.
Source: ecom instruments GmbH