Two recent Internet of Things (IoT)-related surveys and reports emphasize use cases about efficiencies and return on investments. But surprisingly, there is no mention of people safety nor productivity.
It is imperative to place people at the heart of the IoT universe. Today, people-related use cases have been greatly understated. However, all angles of IoT use cases are equally important—business efficiencies, productivity, and people safety. As such, IoT must become more human-centric.
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Obtaining Sustainable Prevention with IoT Technologies
Many organizations do follow work-safety measures and policies, yet problems remain only partially solved. The key to sustainable prevention lies in getting the right set of technologies combined with organizational strategies for effective implementation.
IoT-based, connected worker solutions with their rapid abilities to monitor and predict safety risks are continuing to protect millions of people from workplace injuries and deaths globally.
For high-risk industries such as oil and gas, chemical production, and mining and metals, these connected worker solutions, when deployed in production environments, provide complete visibility of their workforce and their operations. More importantly, the real-time insights from continuous monitoring helps companies to identify and isolate risks in advance, significantly saving lives and avoiding near-miss incidents.
From health and safety monitoring to asset tracking and utility management, IoT applications are already transforming multiple support processes in factory settings. Beyond factories, the actionable data from IoT sensors are enabling a wide range of use cases like connected vehicles, remote health monitoring, and smart home appliances.
Alongside 5G, IoT is set to bring a myriad of benefits to society and the environment. To top it off, with a common IoT fabric that brings together connectivity, data, and device management, the opportunities for businesses to unlock efficiency and productivity seem boundless.
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Balancing IoT Use Cases to Enable Safety
While the technical-brilliance and usefulness of IoT makes it widely applicable across industries through different use cases, enterprises are often prioritizing use cases that deliver promising return on investment (ROI) directly linked to production processes. Today, companies are making efforts to enhance people’s safety; however, there is not enough focus on leveraging IoT as an enabler for this safety focus.
Research studies indicate that every dollar invested in an effective health and safety program returns an average of 500% payback to the organization. In addition to that, there could be significant cost savings from increased workforce productivity.
Moreover, reports and surveys that predict the growth opportunities of IoT use cases fail to highlight the importance of workplace safety and well-being. More than 90% of the use case adoption reports do not rank IoT use cases on safety and health in the top three places. This myopic view on IoT growth potential leaves out the immense opportunities arising from IoT solutions that can enhance workplace safety, productivity, and well-being.
Business and consultants’ surveys must also start asking questions about employee safety in addition to bottom-line returns. This will uncover the true potential of IoT use cases for people-first organizations, where employee safety and well-being gain importance along with bottom line benefits.
Successful businesses that understood the benefits of investing in a safe and healthy workforce stayed afloat, naturally gaining a competitive advantage over others. In fact, these organizations were able to resume operations swiftly adhering to higher standards of health and safety compliance.
On the flip side, businesses that failed to embrace change due to technical and organizational barriers saw productivity loss and disruptions in supply chains, which adversely affected the jobs and livelihoods of workers across sectors.
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The Future of IoT-Enabled Safety and Security
In the era of digital transformation, creating value for businesses, the environment, and society needs a systems-focused approach to anticipate and solve future challenges. Analyst firm IDC predicts that there will be 55.7 billion connected devices worldwide by 2025, and with 75% of these connected to an IoT platform, businesses need to think of long-term strategies for industry verticals, especially high-risk industries that are resource- and labor-intensive.
A peek into the future of the workforce and the dominance of IoT promises a plethora of possibilities in Industry 4.0. Transformational leadership with the right mindset, leveraging the power of digital technologies, will be instrumental to ensure business continuity while protecting employee safety and security.
About the Author:
A.S. Lakshminarayanan, CEO at Tata Communications