A societal, industrial and technical innovation to protect workers' lives & their families

A societal challenge

Unacceptable figures

Every 15 seconds, worldwide, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease. In Europe only, 3.720 workers died in 2013. It’s a worldwide plague concerning everyone. Our project is about saving workers’ lives thanks to an innovative Smart PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) able to predict accident and to reduce emergency response time for injured workers. Our Smart Safety Shoes solution can be proposed as an integrated safety shoe or as an add-on device that can be plugged to any shoes.

The genesis of our innovation

In 2014, the company Intellinium was contacted by Enedis (formerly known as ERDF) to help workers facing growing aggression risks. A few months after, the first smart and connected safety shoe was born. At this time, we were not anticipating that we were opening the “Pandora’s box” with many more industrial safety, security and health functionalities to come. In 2016, we applied for our first patent. In 2017, we finalized our first field prototype reaching a TRL 7 product development. At the same time, we validated business viability
and market traction.

A burden for everyone...

Not only our product helps solving a societal challenge (saving workers’ lives) but we also address the tremendous economic burden for companies and community. Whatever private or publicly mutualized, the cost of work-related accident represents billions of euros that could be used for job creation or training, innovation or even low-carbon transformation. But it’s still here to compensate for unacceptable work-related facilities in emerging and western countries too. By saving lives and reducing injuries severity, Intellinium will help companies and community alike to save billions of euros and thousands of workers’ lives. We have been studying past fatal accidents and we concluded that some workers could have been saved if they were equipped with our technology.

Our innovation strength comes from a basic idea: choosing a PPE that is always worn by all workers, that is non-obtrusive, discrete, mass produced and located far away from sensitive body part. The safety shoe was the perfect candidate. The next step was to transform this “passive PPE” into a “smart PPE” able to connect to several networks, to make its own decision, to handle local analytics and to resist harsh and extreme conditions. The last step was to ensure that this innovative wearable was able to predict accidents and to indicate highly risky situation to workers as a truly “worker hub” protecting anywhere anytime without being intrusive for the worker. The Smart & Connected Safety Shoes AI-enabled powered by Intellinium was born and it is a European worldwide innovation breakthrough.

Even for the planet itself!

Last but not the least, we will save hundreds of tons of hardware waste by reducing and replacing substantially the electronic equipment worn by worker. For instance, our innovation makes man-down and alert button obsolete as well as partially the smartphone itself. We also reduce weight and number of equipment worn by the worker, as well as overall PPE energy consumption positioning Intellinium as low-carbon company helping reduce climate change effects.

A legal, technical and design challenge

What does "connected worker" mean and where does it apply?

"Connected Worker" is related to "Industry 4.0", "Smart City" and "Smart Ports" paradigms.

There are a lot of definitions about what is a Smart City and we must admit a bit of hype. Nevertheless, there are deep trends that justify and explain in which ways cities are changing (or must change) to be more: Sustainable, Protective, Attractive, Efficient, Fun to live and work.

Industry 4.0 (a.k.a the fourth industrial revolution) is something much deeper than the hyped "Internet of Things" for customers who are supposed to buy at any cost useless smart & connected objects.

As shown below (source: Wikipedia), the 4th revolution is related to the hyper-connected industrial area where traditional machines and workers are transformed into smart & connected workers and machines. By doing so, new usages and new services are possible such as:

- Monitor a turbine using strain gauges coupled to local decision-making edge board in order to get the maximum operational efficiency without compromising on security and maintenance.

- Send a real-time alert to a worker when a machine close to him is about to fail.

- Produce highly personalized product on-demand on local distributed small production units using additive manufacturing (industrial version of 3D-printing).

Connected Worker is different from "Knowledge Worker" but the connected industrial worker generates a lot of valuable data and context knowledge. There is a lot of media coverage on "connected machines" but we believe that industry 4.0 can and will only deliver sustainable and valuable results if and only if workers are part of the play. For instance, worker personal protective equipment sends and receives data/event from/to other workers/machines/organisations in case of emergency.

Western countries such as France, Germany or US will probably lead the next generation worker revolution as those countries are paving the way for re-industrialization. The political turmoil in US and in Europe will accelerate this trend as citizen do not accept anymore globalization where cheap manufacturing competes with local production units. For instance, Donald Trump has announced during his campaign that he would ask Apple to produce in US (“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” he said in January 2016 at Liberty University and “Apple and all of these great companies will be making their products in the United States, not in China, Vietnam,” he said at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month). There are several articles from mass media criticizing this view but Donald Trump has been elected and he might well do what he said.

In France and in Germany, we observe the same expectations from a large majority of citizens. To be sustainable and economically viable, new emerging technologies and working process must be invented and delivered. That's where industry 4.0 lies !

What are examples of connected worker services?

Ensuring by all means worker protection is not only a legal requirement for most employers but also a way to get loyal and motivated employees, in particular the ones working in harsh and dangerous industrial area.

Smart and Connected solution implemented in PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) can really bring more protection to the worker by allowing him to send/receive real-time and contextualized alert/events.

Even tough a few of them are still innovative, most of manufactured PPEs are unfortunately totally passive and cannot bring any connected services.

Mobile app dedicated to worker is the first basic step to provide connected worker service but is far from delivering the full potential.

What is required to enable connected worker services?

Enabling connected worker services will be a challenge, especially in western countries where "what is new" is very often considered as negative. Usages analysis and technical architectures, as well as security and privacy issues, will be part of the problem and the solution.

  • Security and Privacy - Employees and employers must ensure that their data is protected.
  • Low SAR (Specific Absorption rate) - Citizen are increasingly sensitive to radiation impact. As a consequence, it might be a barrier for employee adoption. That's the reason why we believe that the worker gateway is best suited in his safety shoes (and not on helmet for example).
  • Hidden integration - From the worker point of view, he shouldn't think or even take care about a new complicate device.
  • Useful and open to employee appropriation - Employee are not machines and their appropriation level is key for their adoption. Thus "connected worker apps" should be accessible and feasible for employees.
  • Easy to use - Blue collars (low or high skilled) require very easy and straight forward tools to achieve their mission and get the best motivation and productivity. Western countries unions are very powerful and they are by nature very skeptical to new technologies and how it could benefit to employees (and not only to employers). The new successful connected worker solution will also have to convince workers about their simplicity and benefits for them.
  • Multi-applicative hardware and software - The connected worker device will bring value through different apps. Thus it is important that the device is multi-app.
  • Cost-efficient and highly scalable production - Personal protective equipment market is a price sensitive market with huge volume. Scalability and economies of scale is key sucess factor. The cost structure will be composed of unit price and monthly or yearly subscription price (telecom, maintenance, ...).
  • Power-efficient - The battery-operated equipment will require innovative power management process in order to offer running low-complex app and high-complex app (requiring more power).
  • Recyclable - Green impact is a concern for major industrial company and "connected worker" solutions must ensure that they fit this environmental requirement.
  • Change management - As for any revolution impacting people, workers and organisation, industry 4.0 and connected worker solutions would require tremendous efforts and change management strategies to achieve the best sustainable results. Specific consultancy and products will target change management.