On-site safety in the mining industry is getting a smart technology boost, thanks to an innovative development from a team of RMIT and CSIRO researchers.
The personal safety system monitors and sends smartphone alerts if a mineworker’s clothing - or “personal protective equipment” (PPE) - is not being worn correctly or not working properly.
Along with PhD students Jonathan Liono and Ali Yavari, Dr Prem Jayaraman makes up the RMIT side of the development team on the project, which uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology.
Jayaraman describes the IoT application, called PPEofThings, as almost having a mind of its own.
“This system allows you to monitor the safety of people on site, provide real-time, location-specific alerts, and improve communications,” he said.
“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.
“The system can even differentiate between whether they’re being worn in the right or wrong way.”
Jayaraman says PPEofThings also takes into account the qualifications and experience of mine personnel, as well as the changing state of the mining environment, using a sophisticated system of IoT sensors, wireless technology and smartphones to provide personalised safety geofencing.
In other words, the system creates a virtual barrier around each individual mine worker that if triggered sends warning alerts to designated smartphones.
“We use low-cost, energy-efficient Bluetooth sensors that you can get anywhere, 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,” he said.
“This is a great example of the way the Internet of Things enables the collection and sharing of data to make practical differences to people’s lives, such as with workplace safety.”
After winning the Unearthed Melbourne Hackathon late last year, PPEofThings is now receiving backing from the Victorian Government and mining company Anglo American for a commercial release.
“The impetus for creating PPEofThings actually came from a challenge set by Anglo American during the Unearthed Melbourne Hackathon last November, and we ended up winning, which was terribly exciting,” Jayaraman said.
“But now we’re working with them and various other investors and partners, including the State Government, to try and commercialise PPEofThings and bring it to the mines as soon as possible, so it can help ensure miners are safe at work.”
Story: Daniel Walder