Until quite recently, gas detection was widely considered to be ‘just another aspect of personal protection equipment (PPE)’, with gas detectors being fairly basic pieces of kit that detected gas hazards and nothing more. That attitude has been reinforced over years by the fact that gas detectors can be quite cumbersome things; they need bump testing and regular maintenance in order to work, which makes them something of a weak link in an increasingly digitalised, remotely-monitored, connected world. But is that attitude still fair?
Well, no. Because just as just as every device and system − from washing machines and fridges to supply chains and enterprise equipment management – has joined the internet of things (IoT), so has gas detection. Now, just as your wearable fitness tracker can monitor your health status, and the impact of variables in your environment (exercise, food, temperature, sleep etc.), your gas monitor can connect to the web and feed data into software to generate insights that go far beyond, ‘have I been exposed to a gas hazard today?’ Becoming part of the IoT is transforming gas detection; and that transformation has only just begun.
Where are we now with connected safety in gas detection?
As things stand, gas detectors are increasingly connected to cloud-based software. This is often provided on a software-as-a-service (SaaS) basis by the device manufacturer, either on their own infrastructure or via a third party cloud provider. It may take the form of an app that is accessed through a web browser. The software interacts with each gas monitor in a fleet, recognising each one individually and logging data throughout each device’s operation.
Of course, the primary purpose of gas detectors remains the safety and protection of personnel, but IoT connectivity offers many additional benefits. The scope of each software package may vary according to the provider, but good quality gas detection SaaS should provide:
- Remote monitoring of multiple aspects of the device (e.g., has the alarm sounded, and if so, why? When is the device due for calibration? Does it have any faults?)
- The ability to connect the device to the wearer (for example through RFID tags in ID badges) so that any failure to comply with proper use that is detected through the software can then be associated with a specific user. In the same way, consistent correct use is also registered. This makes it much easier to tackle problems with non-compliance and to prove compliance at audit.
- The use of software to automatically upload data to the cloud also eliminates the risk of human error and greatly reduces the need for (often tedious and time-consuming) manual documentation.
- Above all, adding gas detectors to the IoT in this way generates lots of useful data and, importantly, presents that data in ways that make it genuinely useful. Some applications can also format and populate reports, invoices and other documentation, which can then be accessed from any mobile device with an internet connection, regardless of location.
What can SaaS/IoT connectivity do for my fleet?
The short answer is ‘lots’. Some examples are:
- Cloud software and monitoring can make it easier to locate workers and devices. This keeps workers safe and reduces device loss or theft.
- In today’s digital environment, the data generated by SaaS services is like gold dust: users can see at a glance which devices need to be calibrated or serviced, where they are and who has them. This information can be combined with schedules to plan service and maintenance in ways that reduce downtime and increase productivity.
- In a similar way, data insights can be used to identify hazardous areas (for example, repeated alarms may signal a leak) which can then be tackled proactively.
Of course, gas detection is just at the beginning of its IoT journey: the future may hold anything from smaller wearable devices to on-site IoT drones and more. But even at this early stage, the benefits of using cloud software are clear. Click here to read more about Crowcon’s own solution.