System can track and keep your employees safe inside buildings, tunnels and other enclosed areas where GPS can’t reach
If you’ve been involved in work on large job sites, you know that a big part of safety is simply keeping track of workers. GPS can help with that and it’s easy when the work zone is outside. But what happens when that site is in a tunnel many feet underground or inside of a building where GPS systems can’t reach?
Redpoint Positioning is hoping to give contractors an answer to that question. The company is just beginning the commercial deployment of its indoor GPS system, which allows contractors to warn workers if they enter a dangerous area.
“If you think about it as GPS, you’ve got satellites that are broadcasting timing signals to the planet but those signals don’t penetrate buildings or underground,” says Jonathan Horne, vice president of product management for Redpoint Positioning. “We go in and install equipment that takes the place of GPS. It’s effectively a wireless mesh network that’s broadcasting timing signals. We install that in the building or underground and it can be extended to a large area.”
HOW WORKERS ARE TRACKED
Workers wear ID badge-like devices with a display, visual alarm and audible alarm that attaches to a vest or jacket. The badge is how the Redpoint system tracks the employee. The supervisor sets up work zones and dangerous areas using software on a tablet. If an employee enters that zone when they aren’t supposed to, both visual and audio indicators will alert them.
It can be set up on a credential basis too. If there is a confined-space work zone, only properly trained workers will be allowed to enter that area. If a worker without qualified training passes into that zone, the badge alarm will go off.
While the system can work outdoors, Horne says it’s less compelling for contractors to use it that way because GPS works well outside and employees can be tracked on their phones.
“The big difference is accuracy,” Horne says. “GPS can show you within an area of where a person or piece of equipment might be. The Redpoint system will get right to a person’s exact position down to within a couple inches.”
The real-time locating system used by Redpoint is based on an ultra-wide band, which makes the pinpointing more accurate than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth systems on the market.
While Redpoint does advertise the system as indoor GPS, there is more than it can do. Besides the real-time visibility to see where people and materials are, and setting up of dangerous zones, the system also keeps a record of where everything tracked has been.
“That gets dumped into a database that a manager can inquiry for analytics or have bread-crumb trails, and time and attendance recording,” Horne says.
ROLLING OUT THE PILOTS
The company is celebrating its fifth year in operation in 2017, with the first four years focused on developing the technology for the system. It’s only in the last few months that pilots have begun to roll out — primarily in the construction industry.
“We’re really looking forward to large-scale commercial deployment,” Horne says. “We’ve been doing some pilots and learning a lot. We’re absorbing those lessons learned and incorporating them into the product as we go.”
Horne says there will be refinements to the hardware and infrastructure associated with the system. The company will also be looking at other ways to incorporate the technology, such as with other design and building programs.
“At the end of the day we’re really hoping that we can make a difference in the safety aspect of job sites,” Horne says.