uvex techware: the smart safety solution

With modular sensors, modern communication and smart networking, uvex techware heralds the digitalised age of occupational health and safety. uvex safety caused a stir at A+A 2017 with its concept for smart personal protective equipment (PPE). However, the prototypes developed specially for the trade fair still had quite limited functionality at the time. Today, two years later, uvex techware has become much more advanced — and is being presented at A+A 2019 with some exciting projects that are almost ready to be launched on the market.

Impacts, free fall and numerous other events can be detected by the metasensor, which comprises optical sensors and sensors that measure the inertial field, temperature field and magnetic field. NFC tags in gloves, AR overlays via smartphone, gesture control, sophisticated communication solutions and much more: The modular concept means that the possibilities for combining the different items of uvex techware are virtually endless. While there were very few suggested application areas for the prototypes that Dr Markus Burkhart, Head of Digital Business Innovations at uvex safety, presented at A+A 2017, a lot of time has been spent on further development and practical testing over the past two years. The system has also accrued a number of exciting components — including the "Near Miss Reporter", the "AR Assistant" and the "Multicom" group communication solution.

How uvex techware works
A key component of uvex techware is the "Safety Assistant" application, which combines the individual modules in a single environment. Being a digital sensory organ, the sensors are extremely versatile — plus they can be recharged wirelessly, are future-proof thanks to the OTA (over-the-air) update function, and can be easily attached to various items of PPE using adapter clips. If required, a sensor from a helmet can even be taken out and built directly into a safety shoe or a jacket. Each metasensor must be paired with the wearer's smartphone via an Android or iOS app that monitors and visualises the readings locally, and can also collect and interpret them if required. This modular approach opens up countless digital options that can be used as a basis for implementing a wide range of customised smart safety applications with ease. The metasensor platform represents the first step in developing a multitude of other data-based safety concepts.

Example applications for uvex techware
uvex techware is not an off-the-shelf product — rather, it is an customisable solution platform for smart safety applications. The networked metasensors and central application hub make it possible to enact numerous interesting scenarios. Safety helmets can have built-in position and motion sensors, for instance, to register rapid and unexpected changes in altitude. If these detect a fall, the techware can ask the wearer to confirm that they are okay via their connected smartphone. If they cannot do this—because they are unconscious, for example—an alarm is triggered after a few seconds and the exact location of the incident is forwarded directly to the person's supervisor, colleagues, or a rescue service.

In addition to sophisticated sensors, techware also features the "AR Assistant", typical applications of which include speedy assistance in safety-critical situations, maintenance work on complex machines, and training. For instance, a production employee can use their smartphone to report a support case they need assistance with. While an internal specialist or external service centre technician accepts the connection request, the employee on-site inserts their smartphone into the specially designed holder on their safety helmet. The employee now streams live images from the production site to the person helping them remotely — and both can see the machine that needs servicing from exactly the same perspective. The help desk agent uses an augmented reality overlay to superimpose useful information or markings straight into the employee's field of vision. Together, the two can solve the maintenance case without the waiting time that would otherwise be required — which, depending on the service level, can sometimes entail the machine being out of action for a very long time.

A camera is used elsewhere in uvex techware too, such as in the additional "Near Miss Reporter" module. If something falls off a pallet in logistics, for example, this enables employees to document and report the incident themselves quickly and unbureaucratically. But for uvex, state-of-the-art communication does not stop here: The intelligent protective equipment is supplemented by a new Multicom system, which is a "Dynamic Mesh Communication" solution for group communication that integrates not only radio devices but smartphones and telephones too. Furthermore, for use in working environments with high levels of ambient noise, the module can even be integrated directly into uvex hearing protectors if required.

Challenges for modern PPE
All occupational health and safety products sold in Germany comply must with the relevant standards, which does not always make it easy for PPE manufacturers to stand out from the competition. For many generations now, the premium system manufacturer uvex has been making much higher demands of itself and its products than those imposed by law: Products that bear the uvex logo generally have to be far safer than standards require them to be. Moreover, uvex focuses on uncompromising product quality, maximum wearer comfort and long-term ergonomics in all of its new innovations and further developments. Smart PPE such as uvex techware represents a bold foray into a whole new generation of protective equipment — one in which networking and intelligence will raise the bar for occupational safety and comfort significantly.


The uvex group

The uvex group brings together three globally active companies under one roof: the uvex safety group, the uvex sports group (with uvex sports and Alpina Sports), and the Filtral group (Filtral and Primetta). The uvex group is represented in 22 countries by 48 subsidiaries but chooses to do most of its manufacturing in Germany. Two thirds of the company’s 2,700-strong workforce is employed in Germany. uvex is a global partner to international elite sport and equips a host of top athletes. The motto protecting people is at the heart of the company’s activities. uvex develops, manufactures and distributes products and services for the safety and protection of people at work, in sport and for leisure pursuits.

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