For Workers in Danger, Personal Safety Apps Abound
A Broadening Potential Market Several analysts told eWEEK that the personal safety app industry is just beginning to get started and could certainly gain a toehold in the enterprise to protect at-risk workers. "I would strongly encourage employers to consider these types of apps for use with employees who might find themselves in sticky situations from time to time," Dan Olds, principal analyst of Gabriel Consulting Group, wrote in an email reply to an inquiry. "The cost looks to be relatively modest and competition will drive prices down even further. It's also interesting to consider the ramifications of an employer who knows that these applications are available, decides NOT to use them, and then has tragedy strike where an employee is killed or injured in an incident that might have been avoided if the device had been used." Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said IBM Research is developing a similar product called WorkRight/Live that uses a smartphone and wearable sensors to track environmental factors affecting workers as well as detecting falls and other potential emergencies."There are certainly situations and jobs where offering an extra layer of safety monitoring would be a good thing. But there also seems to be a lot of free floating anxiety in the air these days resulting in a general fearfulness among people who really have very little to worry about," he wrote. Another analyst, Rob Enderle, principal of Enderle Group, wrote in an email reply to eWEEK that he has "argued for things like this ever since I got mugged in front of my own home and was unable to get my camera working in time because of the password [requirement]." Such apps for people are like the On-Star emergency notification system for vehicles, wrote Enderle. "I think this is a critical area to explore because, particularly for older employees and those in dangerous jobs, they may not be able to put in a password, or by the time they do it, they'll be dead." Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, agrees. "This is a great idea. It leverages all of the sensors and radios inside the phone and has a trigger mechanism that makes good sense," he wrote. "It could be better as time goes on and the tech gets better. If the user is in the building, there is no good way to know exactly where the user is in the building. This will get better as soon as geo-location gets better with barometric sensors and in-building mapping with tech like Google Tango and Intel RealSense." In addition, such apps could eventually be extended to tracking users through wearables, smart clothing and implants in the future, wrote Moorhead.
"Concerns about personal safety are, unfortunately, commonplace for many people so it's natural that app developers would focus their attention on the space," wrote King. At the same time, wrote King, not every worker needs such apps.