Design for the Energy Industry
A Human-centered approach to instrument workers in extreme environments
The Safety ++ project explores innovative solutions to improve the worker’s safety in the extreme environments typical of the energy industry.
We live in a world where everyone and everything is becoming more connected. Technologies like IoT and embedded sensors are creating new opportunities and new threats and they demand that organizations adopt a new approach to innovation.
The Design Lab applied a creative approach to problem solving, starting from a deep investigation of safety issues through ethnography and developing and testing a number of solutions.
We designed an ecosystem of connected objects to improve the worker’s safety, composed of a connected Carabiner, a Jacket, an Undershirt, Shoes, and a customized Mesh Network.
The most critical part of any security procedure is remembering to do things correctly. Based on this principle, Carabiner++ has been designed to help meet some of the safety guidelines implemented by plant operators.
In a refinery such dangers can arise from toxic vapors that are invisible and odorless. To plug this gap of human perception, a wearable Jacket++ was designed to increase human perception of carbon monoxide and H2S. These built-in sensors are placed at the top of the sleeves of the Jacket++ and when the sensors detect such gases, a warning message is sent via the tactile Undershirt++ to all operators in the affected area. This warning will also be forwarded to the control room, thus increasing the precision of monitoring of gas leaks.
Given that users may not always be able to recognize decibel levels harmful to hearing, a of sound volume sensor has been integrated into Jacket++. As workers move around the noisy refinery, their ears are not always aware of changes in sound levels. However, high levels of decibels can cause hearing damage. With this system the operator has a greater awareness of the sound level and is reminded at the appropriate time to wear personal protective equipment to protect his hearing.
The Undershirt++ from the Safety++ ecosystem features a series of small vibration motors that permit tactile communication with the user. The various components of the Safety++ system measure a wide range of environmental variables, which are communicated to the user via a combination of vibrations generated by engines built into the Undershirt++. Operators using elements of the Safety++ ecosystem recognize the different modes of vibration and associate them with specific issues after the appropriate training.
In addition to the critical component for tactile messaging , the Undershirt++ can also monitor the health of the user using biosensors that measure heart rate, breathing, galvanic skin response and spatial position through a gyro. Undershirt ++ is made with elastic and breathable material that protects the sensors from dust and sweat. The material also permits tactile against the skin, to allow the biosensors to make correct data measurements thanks to adherence to the body.
Shoes++ have been designed to utilize pressure sensors that have been integrated into a normal pair of accident prevention work shoes. The pressure sensors are strategically distributed within the most important points of contact between the foot and the shoe to ensure the sensors receive an even reading of data. The insoles with their integrated sensors then use the data readings to calculate the entire force applied by the user’s body weight and carried load on the shoe.
The Mesh Network
The entire Safety++ system communicates through a system of interconnected nodes that allow each element of the ecosystem to communicate with each other. The system is a reliable communication network that dynamically adapts to the areas in which it is used, and establishes a solid platform to support the integration of various elements.