IoT has many use cases, but one that we don’t often talk about is how IoT can enable plant safety and security. IoT technology combined with big data analysis can optimize safety and security by monitoring KPIs such as employee absences, vehicle mishaps, property damage, near misses, injuries, and any loss or damage that happens during the course of normal daily operations.
Often, if left to human reporting alone, many of these metrics can slip through the cracks as they are either unreported or under-reported. IoT enables better safety overall by ensuring real-time insights into these key areas. Any issues that arise can be addressed immediately, assuring compliance with health and safety regulations and environmental concerns.
Where are the gaps in your reporting?
The key is to monitor processes that will provide data that is useful from an operational standpoint. Identifying exactly where in your organization there are issues with transparency is a good place to start as this is where you are going to realize the greatest value.
Wearables provide worker safety and security solutions
Workplace injury is a good example as minor injuries are often unreported. Sometimes, they go on to become bigger issues over time, but the conundrum is how to be able to connect a larger problem back to a previous incident.
IoT wearables can provide a solution to this problem as employees will be monitored constantly for various health metrics, including heart rate, movement, activity, fatigue, stress, and so on. They will also provide a means to deliver important safety information, thereby reducing insurance costs for liability and improving compliance throughout the workforce. Some newer wearable IoT devices can even monitor CO2 and sulfur dioxide exposure, making sure workers stay within acceptable limits.
Digital tagging can also help keep tabs on the workforce. Specifically geared towards high-risk industries such as mining, tagging technology would let management know exactly who is on the job site, how long they have been there for, and ensure that nobody is forgotten or left behind in case of an emergency.
IoT and security in the connected factory
Security has been an ongoing challenge of IoT, as many malicious attackers consider the technology to be an easy access point to a company’s data. With so many disparate suppliers and security protocols and no current standardization, this should be a concern.
To combat this issue, operational technology and IT must be inexorably linked in order to prevent any unauthorized access. Securing plant machinery is key, but with the prevalence of BYOD policies, it is also important to pay attention to how personal devices and their security (or lack of it) are interacting with company processes.
For instance, a worker may be using their smartphone to monitor a process, but the device is infected with malware, thus exposing the company network to intrusion (unsafe) that may look like it is coming from the employee (safe).
With a well-defined device security policy, this can be avoided, but it is imperative that employees understand the potential consequences and learn strategies to maintain safety.
Other steps that should be considered include:
- Maintaining IEC 62443 cybersecurity standards in plant operations
- Ensuring all IoT solutions are Achilles practices and systems certified
- Implementing a closed-loop system to block external threats
- Continuously update security systems and protocols with the latest security standards