Man-Down Monitoring

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Nov 03, 2010 @ 11:19 AM

Tags: Worker Safety, RFID, GPS, Disaster Management

RFID Provides a Safety Net for Workers in Hazardous Conditions

Utility WorkerFrom remote construction sites to prisons, oil rigs, war zones and hospital psychiatric wards, those working in dangerous environments often rely on innovative technology and extraordinary processes to ensure their safety.  In some cases, providing worker safety may require the use of a dedicated system to detect “non-movement” as an indicator that a worker may be incapacitated due to a fall or other life threatening situation.

Man-Down and Lone Worker monitoring systems often contain a combination of locating and sensing technologies to sense non-movement and the position of an individual (standing or prone), and wirelessly broadcast an alarm or alert to a monitoring station if their status indicates a potentially dangerous condition.  Most monitoring devices also include a panic button and some even incorporate GPS tracking and voice recording, allowing for a wider variety of conditional data.

One such monitoring solution is offered by Axcess International Inc. and is being deployed on an oil-drilling platform in Malaysia to track when workers become inactive, indicating a possible injury.  As explored in an RFID Journal article, Axcess International is positioning their Man-Down Monitoring and Locating solution to oil companies, the mining industry and other markets where hazardous work conditions exist.

The Axcess solution includes 315 MHz or 433 MHz battery powered RFID tags that are activated by strategically placed exciters (readers).  Back end system software translates the tag data – including worker ID numbers and motion sensor information – and provides real-time actionable records to help determine whether a worker’s status requires an immediate response.

In addition to providing a safety net for workers in dangerous environments, applications like this can be expanded on and integrated into a wide variety of safety and productivity enhancing solutions for disaster management, border and port security, hazardous waste chain of custody and others. 

If I was working day in and day out in dangerous and sometime life threatening situations, I’d want to work with a net – an RFID safety net.  How about you?

[Image: By Dori [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-us], from Wikimedia Commons]

RFID and Mud Motors

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 26, 2010 @ 03:22 PM

Tags: RFID, Process Control, Disaster Management

A Natural Fit for Natural Resource Exploration

Downhole DrillingWith the recent Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, many of us know more about oil exploration than we did before.  Those of us who followed news reports of the rig explosion, spill and clean up quickly became familiar with blowout preventers, shear rams, cement plugs, and the combination of mechanical failures and human errors that resulted in the tragedy.

Over the years, many different technologies, techniques and innovations have been used when drilling for gas or oil reserves.  One such innovation, known as downhold drilling, was introduced in the 1970’s.  With downhole drilling motors (aka mud motors), the drill bit can be rotated on the bottom of the hole while most of the drill pipe is held stationary as opposed to having the entire drill string rotating at all times.  Among other advantages, various measurement tools can be added to the stationary drill string to help determine if any corrections or adjustments may need to be made – in real time.  The data generated from these measurements is also used to maintain engineering and legal records describing the path of the well bore.

By utilizing RFID technology, Marathon Oil Company of Houston, TX has taken downhole drilling to the next level - allowing for completely new processes to occur.  Instead of activating the downhole equipment with traditional uses of mechanical systems, hydraulic pressure and fluid pulses, a downhole tool is configured with an RFID reader and the tool is activated when RFID tags are read along the length of drill pipe.

According to an article in Drilling Contractor, Marathon Oil has recognized notable benefits from the use of RFID.  With initial goals of reducing costs and rig time, Marathon Oil has also estimated that by implementing such an RFID-powered system, a major oil and gas operator could save at least $17 million in annual costs.  While cost savings are a great achievement, Marathon Oil also pointed out that this solution could result in improvements to operational safety.

With operational safety on everyone’s mind after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the use of RFID for downhole drilling and many other aspects of natural resource exploration seem like a natural fit to us. 

What do you think?  Let us know your thoughts on how RFID could be used for large-scale operational improvements and worksite safety.

[Image credit: Sandia National Laboratories]

RFID for Disaster Management

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 @ 10:25 AM

Tags: RFID, DoD, Disaster Management

Auto ID Technologies Help Deliver Supplies and Locate People During 72 Hour ‘Golden’ Rescue Period

As noted in previous posts, RFID can be used in many aspects of urban planning and construction.  But what happens when carefully planned and urban areas and buildings are destroyed by a disaster and emergency response efforts are needed?

Well, RFID can help there too.

A study published in the International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development earlier this year claims that RFID could be used in the immediate aftermath of major disasters, like an earthquake, to help save lives.  To support their study, researchers modeled the magnitude 8.0 Sichuan earthquake of Disaster ManagementMay 2008 and 100 magnitude 4.0 aftershocks to study how RFID could be used to mitigate a wide array of logistical challenges such as monitoring evacuees and managing the flow of medical supplies.

Researchers found there is a 72 hour ‘golden’ rescue period following an earthquake during which the efficiency of emergency response procedures is key to the rescue operation.  Particularly challenging, the study states, is knowing how many people are present in a damaged building or structure that needs to be evacuated.  In these scenarios, RFID can facilitate the dispatch of rescue personnel and provide real-time information that could be used to organize search and rescue missions. 

A real-world example of the value that RFID can provide in emergency situations was realized immediately following the 7.0 earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti on January 12th, 2010.  As detailed in an RFID Journal report, the U.S. Department of Defense leveraged its In-Transit Visibility (ITV) network to track shipping containers as they moved to and from the island.

Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Riddle, the commander of the 832nd Transportation Battalion, in Jacksonville, FL described the benefits of ITV network: "From a commander's point of view, I'd say that the ITV was critical to the recent aid operations in Haiti.  This was a very complex mission, with a rapid deployment. It's something we don't do every day, but we prepare for every day. And the ITV network was absolutely critical [to its success]."

If faced with a ‘golden’ rescue period of only 72 hours, I know I’d want all available technology, including RFID, used to aid recovery efforts.  How about you?

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