How IoT, Wearables And Existing Tech Will Help Ensure Back-To-Work Safety
By Patrick Ancipink
As economies are opening up and people are going back to their traditional work environments, employee safety and health is paramount. Companies are building education programs detailing new policies and modifying environments to get back up to speed quickly. Much of that will be based on meeting new compliance regulations for the given industry, but worker psychology can’t be overlooked—i.e.,
it’s critical that employees have confidence that their supervisors, safety officers, and upper management are adapting and maintaining a safe environment above and beyond compliance.
Stakeholders want answers to questions such as:
- Are we keeping the appropriate social distance?
- Are people clustering?
- Do we have contact tracing if there is an infection?
- Do we have enough monitoring?
- Can we correlate data across monitoring methods?
- Do we know If the ventilation is adequate?
How Technology Can Ensure Workplace Safety Under New Guidelines
To answer these questions, meet compliance mandates and get back into production ASAP, organizations are utilizing existing technology and condensing project timelines. IoT/OT, handheld devices and kiosks, asset management, and unified endpoint management solutions can be used in unison to monitor employees, their tools, and their working conditions to provide real-time feedback, identify and remediate risks, and track changes.
And it’s not just about getting back online, doing this well will help ensure business continuity and smooth out the ramp to full production.
IoT is particularly powerful because wearables were already connected to employees before the pandemic. Pro athletes are now used to being monitored for their physical attributes and to get back on the grid iron and hardwood—and stay there through the season—the NFL and NBA are using wearables to track social distance and enable contact tracing. The same can be done in office settings, with wearables helping to keep workers a safe distance apart in common spaces and, if need be, identify contacts between employees.
Sensors that measure ventilation and temperature, among other conditions, can be connected to HVAC automation systems and make adjustments to air circulation on the fly. Rugged devices and handhelds are also familiar to workers and can be configured to capture worker safety data in addition to their primary duties.
What About Employee Privacy?
You might be thinking, “wait, that’s a lot of personal data to collect and process. What about privacy?” It’s a critical aspect of employee trust and there can be a fine line between surveillance and gathering adequate data. The good news is that the relationship between privacy and security continues to improve. Whether it’s having separate profiles on your phone for work and personal use (aka BYOD), or anonymizing the data from wearables, vendors and companies are taking the protection of personally identifiable information (PII) seriously. To accomplish all of the above, high security is a necessity. Additional devices and data expand the attack surface that cybercriminals crave. For IIoT, IImT, and OT (industrial, medical IoT and operational technology), you can look to end-to-end threat management solutions, such as the OT offering from IBM Security, to assess your risk, protect your environment, and manage your operations.
- Securing the Transition from Remote Work Back to the Office
For a wide array of devices such as smartphones, tablets, rugged devices and kiosks, there’s a triple play:
- the advanced features of the device itself
- the enterprise scalability and hardening from the OS (e.g., Google Android Enterprise, apple iOS, Windows), and
- a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution, like IBM Security MaaS360 with Watson, that adds additional capabilities to improve the security posture while boosting employee productivity.
Worker safety has never been a bigger priority, and the new use cases and conditions we are now facing have just about every type of business, institution and organization stepping on the accelerator to adapt and protect faster. The good news is that existing tech investments are at the ready.