From his perspective at his New York City office, the disruptive impact of wearables is easy to spot for Haytham Elhawary.
“In Central Park, your average runner is covered in sensors,”
he told the Safety Technology crowd at the EHS Today 2017
Safety Leadership Conference last November.
From those sensors, he said, “these runners know their
heart rate, they know how many miles they’ve run, they know
the temperature and their oxygenation levels. They even know
if they are doing better than their friends or whether they’ve
gotten a personal record for the day.”
Armed with smartwatches and rugged gadgets, these am-
ateur data-crunching athletes have taken over gyms and
tracks in just the last couple of years, changing just about
everything about exercise culture in the process. To Elhawary,
it demonstrates a profound level of digital intelligence that
never existed in this market before, creating a data-fueled
army of activity, producing endless anecdotes of weight loss,
lifestyle changes, and health improvements in the process.
All that is fantastic, but it does raise some serious questions
Big data, analytics, KPIs, performance metrics—these are all
the lifeblood of manufacturing and industrial productivity. But
now with these cheap sensors—also part of the manufacturing
world—they are being used to help joggers log better data than
even some of the most sophisticated plants. On the individual
data level, compared to these athletes, manufacturers are
still totally in the dark.
As CEO of Kinetic, Elhawary is out to change this.
EASE THE STRAIN
To accomplish this, Elhawary and his team decided to start
with one of the most common worker injuries: strains and
sprains, a “pesky problem” due to repetitive motions.
Typically, he explained, the only way to prevent these injuries
has been to either engineer as much bending and reaching
as possible out of the work, or to generally encourage better
ergonomics in training. A better approach would be to take
what the consumer devices do best and apply that to the
strains and sprains problem. But first they had to figure out
what it is they do, exactly.
“When we started this project, we believed we could use
these wearables to keep workers safe,” Elhawary explained.
“But before we could get into that, we had to figure out what it is
about wearables that helps people live more active lifestyles.”
His research on the matter came up with three primary
functions these devices tend to perform:
1. They quantify previously unknown metrics.
The combination of these functions, he found, allow the de-
vices to get into something called the “behavior change cycle.”
Basically, he explained,
the more times you do
something, the more
feedback you get; the
more feedback you get,
the more goals you will
achieve; the more goals
you achieve, the more likely
you will be to change your behavior. Simple.
“This cycle is super important and is the key to change
behavior,” he said. “it shows us why wearables do what
they do in the consumer world, so now we can apply it
to the safety world.”
Elhawary’s answer to this is a wearable gadget called
the Kinetic Reflex.
This small, pager-like device attaches to workers’ belts
and monitors their postures. When it detects any excessive bending, twisting, or reaching—the primary causes
of strains and sprains—it sends out a light vibration and
records the hit on the device and in the accompanying
app. That data is then tracked on their progress toward
their personal goals and stacks the workers up against
their peers’ performance.
It seems almost too simple to be effective. But, honestly, glorified digital pedometers seem too simple to
help all these millions of people get to the gym, too. Plus,
the Reflex hits all three aspects of the behavior change
cycle, so in theory it should be effective.
And, according to Elhawary, early trials are already
showing impressive results.
In one 4-week pilot program at a global logistics company, Elhawary noted, workers saw an 84% overall improvement in posture and ergonomics. One worker in
particular went from 320 unsafe postures per day to just
12—a whopping 96% reduction in strain and sprain risk.
For safety managers throwing every engineering feat
and training tactic imaginable out for even incremental
improvements in worker safety, these numbers should
seem incredible. And, indeed, there was an audible
collective gasp in the room when they were announced.
And this is why Elhawary believes this is only the start of
the next industrial wearable revolution.
“This will have profound implications on safety gear
in the future,” Elhawary argued. “I’m convinced that in
the next maybe 10 years, most of your workers will be
wearing sensors of one type or another.”
(For more go to:
Can Wearables Boost Safety?
Taking a lesson from the consumer world, Kinetic is out to start a new industrial
wearable movement that targets safety first.
by Travis Hessman