Integrating RF & IoT technologies into the design of smart PPE wearables to improve workplace safety

Author : Nick Wood | Sales & Marketing Director | Insight SiP

01 December 2020

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The management of workplace health & safety risks in the COVID-19 era has highlighted the importance of personal protection equipment (PPE) for workers across multiple industries, including healthcare. Designers are now integrating IoT & Industry 4.0 technologies, including RF & wireless solutions, into equipment to create smart PPE.

The full version of this article was originally featured in EPDT's IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement, included in the December 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

However, RF devices worn close to the body pose design challenges, which Nick Wood, Sales & Marketing Director at RF circuit miniaturisation, system-in-package & antenna-in-package expert, Insight SiP reviews here…

Smart PPE couples traditional PPE (reinforced clothing, helmets, safety shoes, ear plugs and protective eyewear) with integrated electronics (sensors, microprocessors and RF devices) to deliver enhanced safety and improved productivity. The European Agency for Safety & Health at Work (EU-OSHA) says that: “Smart PPE promises a higher level of protection and more comfort through the use of enhanced materials or electronics components”.

IoT & Industry 4.0 technologies drive smart PPE development
The technologies that underpin Industry 4.0, including low-powered IoT sensors, sophisticated wireless connectivity, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and cloud and edge computing can be applied to help manage COVID-19 and the new workplace constraints that it imposes, or otherwise improve workplace safety. Smart PPE can be embedded in wearables in multiple forms: you could have a sensor equipped with a light, buzzer and/or a vibration to alert you to the fact that you are too close to a colleague via a tag integrated into protective clothing, a hard hat or a wristband, for example.

Through wireless connectivity, the tag could be used by management for geo-positioning and geo-fencing for employees and industrial equipment at rest or in motion. Industry 4.0 technology can be applied to wearables to monitor employee body temperatures and alert the wearer to excessive temperatures which might require intervention, such as drinking more liquids or resting in a cooler place to recover. Of course, these types of application need to be carefully managed to comply with personal data protection regulation, such as GDPR in Europe.

Read the full article in EPDT's December 2020 issue...


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