A team of researchers from RMIT and the CSIRO have developed a smart technology that will increase on-site safety in the mining industry.
The personal safety system, which uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology, monitors and sends smartphone alerts if a mineworker’s clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE) is not being worn correctly or is malfunctioning.
“This system allows you to monitor the safety of people on site, provide real-time, location-specific alerts, and improve communications,” said Dr Prem Jayaraman, who makes up the RMIT side of the development team along with PhD students Jonathan Liono and Ali Yavari.
“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.”
Dr Jayaraman said the IoT application – called 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.
“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.”
According to the press release by RMIT, the PPEofThings – which won the Unearthed Melbourne Hackathon late last year – is edging closer to commercial release thanks to the support from the Victorian Government and mining company Anglo American.
“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,” Dr 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.”