Improving Safety on Construction Sites

Researchers from Spain have recently developed a safety system that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to ensure the correct use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) on construction sites. This innovative system is not only robust and reliable but also easily adaptable to various dangerous machines.

The system is built on RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indicator) information transmitted by BLE devices arranged in a particular rig combined with a Bayesian distance estimator. The aim is not merely to signal risky situations caused by the misuse of PPE but to intervene swiftly and robustly to eliminate the safety risk.

The researchers have built upon previous results on the statistically sound measurement of distances and closeness in construction sites. By collocating several BLE transmitters near orthogonally, they have managed to reduce interferences while avoiding the cost of more advanced technologies.

The practical contributions of this research include the design of the system, a working prototype and a thorough statistical analysis for finding the optimal parameters for both the software and the equipment. The research shows that using several orthogonally collocated BLE transmitters improves robustness and overall performance without requiring more complex and costly equipment.

The improvements are most significant as the number of transmitters increases. Using a diversity of devices is better when these devices are noisy and it also enhances the robustness of the solution. An arrangement of orthogonal BLE beacons allows for an increased rate of advertising messages, and an extended Kalman filter plus a discrete filter can benefit from that increased flow of data, providing a simple and efficient approximation to the problem of safety estimation.

The use of an additional beacon to notify the correct use of the PPE, implemented inside a wearable microcontroller, is a very flexible solution. It allows for different local implementations using various sensors and measurements without the need to modify the RSSI-only method in the receiver, and with any number of users. The system can be easily integrated into a wide variety of dangerous machines and tools such as angle grinders, concrete mixers and pneumatic drills.

The Potential of BLE Beacons in Enhancing Road Safety

Road traffic accidents have been steadily increasing, raising concerns among authorities and the public alike. A significant number of these accidents can be attributed to factors such as driver error and a blatant disregard for obeying traffic signs. While these human-induced errors persist, there is a hope on the horizon in the form of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs). These vehicles, equipped with advanced technology, are anticipated to drastically reduce the number of accidents by navigating roads more safely and efficiently than traditional vehicles.

A component in the deployment and effectiveness of CAVs is Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication. This encompasses infrastructure-to-vehicle (I2V) and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, acting as a bridge to enhance road safety for vehicles driven both manually by humans and automatically by systems. These modes of communication ensure that vehicles are constantly in touch with their surroundings, be it other vehicles or the infrastructure, allowing them to make informed decisions.

Enter Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, a technology that holds significant potential for I2V communication. Their appeal lies in their affordability, compactness, low energy consumption, wide compatibility with contemporary devices, and an impressively extensive range. Given these attributes, there’s growing interest in evaluating BLE beacons’ efficacy when used as roadside units (RSUs) attached to traffic signs. The goal? To seamlessly convey time-critical information to vehicles, especially in bustling urban settings.

A comprehensive study was conducted to look into this very potential. This involved integrating a CAV development platform to discern if the vehicle could aptly receive the beacon message from a distance that allows for sufficient reaction time, especially when adhering to the speed limits set for that particular road. The study was meticulous, taking into account the road’s geometry and the varying conditions it might present, from dry surfaces to wet terrains.

Furthermore, this research wasn’t just limited to understanding the capability of BLE beacons. It also looked into testing diverse BLE beacon configurations to pinpoint the optimal setup that ensured the required distance was met for all signs. This was imperative to ensure that CAVs could safely detect the signs and respond accordingly.

The findings were promising. The results demonstrated that BLE beacons, when positioned and configured appropriately, have immense potential to be employed in time-sensitive I2V communications on urban roads. Moreover, the study succeeded in identifying the optimal beacon configurations for signs, ensuring they are detected safely by CAVs, marking a significant stride towards safer urban roads in the future.

Using Beacons to Mitigate Staff Duress

Staff duress, also known as employee duress or worker duress, is where employees may feel threatened, intimidated, or unsafe while performing their job duties. This can occur in a variety of industries, including healthcare, education, retail, hospitality, and security.

Problems associated with staff duress include:

  • Employee safety: If employees feel threatened or unsafe, it can have a negative impact on their well-being, job satisfaction, and productivity.
  • Employer liability: Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees. Failure to do so can result in legal action and financial penalties.
  • Costly incidents: If an employee is injured due to a safety issue, it can result in costly workers’ compensation claims, lawsuits, and reputational damage to the employer.

Beacons with buttons, used with real time locating systems, can help mitigate staff duress by providing a quick and effective way for employees to signal for help in an emergency situation. These devices have a wearable or handheld button that employees can press to trigger an alert. The alert is then sent to a designated response team, who can quickly assess the situation and provide assistance as needed.

Beacons with buttons can be especially useful in industries where employees work alone or in remote locations. They can also be helpful in schools and universities, where teachers and staff members may be at risk of violence or other safety threats.

Beacons with buttons

Using Bluetooth RSSI for Visually Impaired Navigation

There’s new research from the University of Bristol on Outdoor Localization Using BLE RSSI and Accessible Pedestrian Signals for the Visually Impaired at Intersections.

The idea is to use Bluetooth received signal strength (RSSI) to enable the blind and visually impaired (BVI) to safely to cross intersections on foot. Audible systems already exist but users find them confusing when crossing complex road intersections. The researchers developed a system called CAS (Crossing Assistance System) that provides pedestrian positioning.

The system uses k-nearest neighbors (kNN) method Support Vector Machine (SVM) with various RSSI features for classification, including a moving average filter, that was able to localise people with 97.7% accuracy.

Beacons Used by Hotel Panic Buttons

Hotel Management has an article mentioning how hotel panic button solutions are being used by Curator Hotel & Resort Collection.

Employees wear a cellular wireless panic button that can be pressed when help is needed. Bluetooth beacons are placed around the hotel that allow the worker to be located.

There are other ways to implement such systems without needing expensive, extra, cellular wireless. For example, it’s possible to piggy back on phones employees are already carrying, use beacons with 2-way radio or have gateways around the hotel to detect location.

Bluetooth Smart Helmet in Mining

There’s new research by Yeanjae Kim, Jieun Baek and Yosoon Choi of the Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Pukyong National University, Korea on a Smart Helmet-Based Personnel Proximity Warning System for Improving Underground Mine Safety.

The system involves a smart helmet worn by walking workers that picks up Bluetooth beacons attached to heavy equipment, vehicles or placed in dangerous zones. The aim is to prevent collisions between equipment and pedestrians in mines.

The bidirectional proximity warnings provide visual proximity alerts that reduce worker mental effort and stress and help to free the hands of workers to maintain work efficiency.

The system uses an Arduino Uno board with Bluetooth BLE module within the helmet. Visual warnings are provided using LED straps.

The use of Bluetooth for proximity safety warnings isn’t new. We have come across similar concepts in power stations and factories where fixed smart lights and/or apps, rather than smart-helmets, are used to improve proximity safety, particularly near blind corners or hazardous areas. We also have clients re-purposing social distancing beacons to provide for simpler systems that warn workers of proximity to vehicles.

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Safety System Using iBeacon

The Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering of TJS Engineering College, Chennai, India has a new paper on Women Safety System using iBeacon Technology.

It describes a system that uses iBeacon to provide tracking of women when out alone. As it uses iBeacon, it is presumably for use where GPS doesn’t work. Also, while not mentioned, it might equally be used for all vulnerable people including lone workers, young, old and disabled.

Women safety system using iBeacon

The system consists of a wearable belt that tracks location and sends alerts via cellular connection. It uses heartbeat, sound and pressure sensors to detect abnormal situations.

Read more about iBeacons

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Using iBeacons with Intelligent Displaying and Alerting Systems

There’s recent research into using iBeacons with intelligent displaying and alerting systems (SICIAD) typically found in public buildings and offices. The paper An Intelligent Low-Power Displaying System with Integrated Emergency Alerting Capability by Marius Vochin, Alexandru Vulpe, Laurentiu Boicescu, Serban Georgica Obreja and George Suciu of the University of Bucharest shows how beacons can be used to determine indoor position of mobile terminals or signalling points of interest.

An Android app uses the beacons to detect location and sends it to the SICIAD system. The researchers concluded that:

“By using an appropriate number of beacons and optimal positions, a relatively precise indoor localization can be obtained with iBeacon technology”

Update on the Use of Beacons on Aircraft

Last year we wrote about how Beacons might be classed as Personal Electronic Devices (PED) and how companies such as Samsonite were already using tracker beacons in some of their luggage. Since then, there have been some new airline baggage rules that have put some ‘smart’ baggage firms out of business.

The new rules focus more on the batteries than the use of (Bluetooth) wireless. Lithium-ion batteries pose a fire risk, especially when left unattended in the hold. In the US, smart cases are banned from the hold unless the batteries can be removed. The IATA has a paper (pdf) on smart baggage with integrated batteries.

The focus is on baggage (and hence batteries) in the hold. Devices need to be able to be deactivated and/or taken into the cabin rather than stored in the hold.

The CAA says:

“Lithium batteries are very safe, but because of their high energy, if they are not treated with care or if they are abused or have a manufacturing fault, they can catch fire”

The main risk is that baggage gets damaged which then affects the enclosed batteries.