Making work smarter, making workers safer

April 16, 2018
IBM's Omer Arad uses digital tools to protect flesh and bone.

Omer Arad, IBM researcher/developer and member of the Forbes Israel 30 Under 30 class of 2018,

IBM's Omer Arad

specializes in applying elements of the IoT for personal safety, using voice and gesture activation to identify workers’ behavior patterns and tapping artificial intelligence and sensor data to prevent accidents in hazardous work environments. We chatted with him about workplace safety, how age affects digital adoption, and the role of safety in IIoT initiatives. Take a look…

Smart Industry: What’s new in personal safety?

Omer: We are working on research connected to wearable devices, which are worn on the bodies and collect biometic data. We use ID tags that generate real-time data in order to protect workers in extreme conditions, such oil and gas facilities. We are collecting data from hard environments, from -40 Celsius to plus 40 degrees, and finding ways to run analytics offline. We are using sensors with oil-field workers, protecting them in real time.  

Smart Industry: How does AI and sensor data keep workers safe?

Omer: We combine data from different variables. Each worker has his or her own body metrics. We collect data based on their gestures.

Smart Industry: Is this gesture activation an intrusion of privacy?

Omer: It gives us an overall picture of employees’ safety—the risk level of each working in each environment. IBM has no access to employee data; we get that data anonymized. Our main goal is to protect workers, minimize risk and improve safety.

Smart Industry: Do young professionals have an edge in this arena, having grown up in an age of connectivity? 

Omer: Of course. They grew up with mobile devices. They definitely understand how much connectivity can improve lives. And they are comfortable using differ devices. This is only the beginning of the IoT era. It will ultimately be the same as the internet, in terms of how the IoT will globally change the way we live. This is especially true regarding employee safety.

Smart Industry: What's new in IoT applications for safety?

Omer: Employees working in high altitude can use data from The Weather Channel when they are already deployed. We can combine input from sensors with fatigue levels of employees, and send alerts if need be. The key is the ability to aggregate that information from lots of sensors.

Find an IBM use-case video here. Find case studies that detail projects Omer has worked on among these Safer Workplace Resources.

Smart Industry: Is safety an overlooked focus for IoT developments? 

Omer: I believe that safety in industrial settings will start to change the way we use sensors. It’s in companies’ best interest to improve worker safety.  

Smart Industry: What about worker reception of these advancements?

Omer: The main goal of these systems is to minimize risk. Workers have to understand this isn’t just about checking their productivity. Once they understand that they want to take part.

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