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Connected Worker Ecosystems will Transform the Role of PPE
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In the universe of safety and protection, the concept of smart personal protective equipment (PPE) is an exciting opportunity that has the potential, in time, to reshape the future of PPE. However, companies have struggled to gain traction in the market. PPE is, often, thought of as a low-cost investment, and buyers struggle to understand the benefits of a smart product that costs many times more.For that reason, there has been a divergence in recent years, with smart technology being sold to end users as a separate entity, rather than something integrated within PPE. In 2018, Frost & Sullivan saw a major upturn in interest in smart PPE, from a number of perspectives. External factors that are enabling an improved outlook for smart PPE include:• Wider digital transformation trends, such as Industry 4.0 in the end markets for PPE, increasing each industries’ awareness of the potential benefits of data• Interest from the insurance industry, which is beginning to see workplace safety as an area to replicate the successes being achieved in integrating smart technology into vehicle insurance and home insuranceThis presentation incorporates Frost & Sullivan’s latest thinking on smart PPE, based on multiple pieces of research through 2018 and 2019.There are a number of potential definitions of what ‘smart’ PPE encompasses, depending on the combination of 3 factors. These 3 factors combine to create 6 distinct areas of opportunities.Much of the added safety benefits provided by smart technology will likely come from distinct devices, rather than technology that has been integrated into a traditional piece of PPE. Nevertheless, they might be attached to a jacket, for instance.Several products marketed as smart PPE have little ‘safety’ functionality, such as glasses with augmented reality (AR) that are used primarily for job productivity (as opposed to safety) benefits. Companies are still uncertain about whether it is better to integrate smart functionality into the PPE, or to have a distinct gadget for it.Smart PPE exists at the point where safety, wearability, and smart technology converge. In this context, ‘wearable’ literally means something one wears. Some industry participants use the word to mean ‘wearable technology’.The Smart PPE market could more formally differentiate into 2 themes:• Smart = reacting to the environment, intervening without the worker having to. (This is a developed concept that uses smart technology to enhance the safety performance of PPE. Several ‘intelligent’ safety solutions exist that do not rely on electronics.)• Smart = associated with IoT/digital workplaces, data, or communication. (Not as well developed, this concept is broader in scope, as it takes PPE into the realm of the ‘connected’ working”. There is a long road to travel in terms of data privacy and data security. There are challenges, and companies are working hard to find solutions.)Author: Brian Balmer
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