I was talking to my father a while back about M2M.  Although I am still not entirely sure that he fully understands what we do at Novotech, his main comment about M2M solutions was, "That sounds great....if you are a boss.  It sounds like it is just another way to cut jobs".  My father was a lifelong worker in the construction field, a place where unions are both widespread and powerful. 

This brings up a good question....do M2M benefits truly benefit the worker, not just the bosses?  We can talk a lot about how it helps to increase productivity for companies, but from a worker's point of view, I can see their skepticism.  It just means that I am expected to do more for the same pay, and why would I want to do that?

One of the lesser talked about benefits for M2M is how it makes workplaces safer; finding ways to let workers avoid being unnecessarily placed in dangerous situations.  When you put it this way, many workers do appreciate how solutions can help them during times of distress and ultimately avoid putting them in dangerous situations.

Here are four ways an M2M solution can help improve the safety of workers:

Work alone solutions
An electrical worker leaves a job site, one where he was with a dozen or so other employees (so, plenty of people to help if he is hurt on the site).  On the way back to the shop to finish up for the day, he swerves to avoid a deer on a rural road and rolls his vehicle.  Left unconscious, the worker is unable to push his emergency panic button to notify his employers of what has happened.  A few minutes later, an ambulance and fire truck arrives to bring the worker to a hospital....where he leaves the next day with no long-lasting injury.

The reason why this story has a happy ending is due to two M2M systems.  First, the company had installed a Fleet Management solution in the vehicle that alerted the employer that there was both a rapid deceleration of the vehicle and an airbag deployment.  The employer tried to contact the worker via phone, but the phone was damaged in the crash.  The employer dispatched emergency services to the driver's site, which they had thanks to the GPS-based location.  After a couple of minutes, the driver's work alone alarm activated, stating that the worker had not moved in a few minutes.  The employer was able to update the EMS to let them know that they were dealing with an unconscious driver......Pretty cool, and this is a story that has happened many times.

Better predicting big outages / safety issues
How many times have you heard about workers being electrocuted by fallen wires or because there was a fatal mixture of water and electricity?  M2M solutions often involve intelligent sensing capabilities to alert dispatchers of an issue, and these alerts can be sent in real time to response crews.  These alerts can sense a presence of a toxic material, high voltage, excessive water or many other things.  While the dangerous repair still may have to be made, at least the workers have the required information to take necessary precautions to ensure everyone's safety.

Better monitoring of driver behaviour to prevent future issues
When I tell people that we are monitoring driver behaviour, people often use the term "Big Brother".  However, one company had an interesting take on this.  They are in the field of offering remote services to Mining companies, and as such, much of their time was spent on bad roads.  The life expectancy of their trucks (based on these extreme conditions) was deemed to be 5 years, but they were only seeing half of that.  Their initial response was to blame the drivers ("they must be driving too fast"), but they were shocked to see that this was not the cause.  Once the Fleet Management solution was installed, they assumed that the drivers would slow down and the issue would go away.  However, the vehicles still broke down at the same frequency and their fuel bill did not improve, indicating that driver activity was not the cause.

As it turns out, it was a combination of more than expected weight being loaded onto the trucks and in fact, the wrong kind of truck being used altogether (it should have been more heavy-duty to handle this workload).  The unions were shocked to hear that in fact, by changing to a more heavy-duty truck, the safety of the workers was improved as the lesser trucks could have caused major accidents.....if it were not for the skill level of the drivers!

Reduced travel
People often look at the cost of travel as being strictly the costs of the vehicle.  First, there is a cost to have someone operate the vehicle on a trip that could have been avoided.  However, what I am focusing on here is the safety aspect of avoiding unnecessary trips.  A worker can be exposed to a number of dangers while on business excursions, ranging from being in a vehicle accident, injuries from sitting in the same position too long and even from a form of violence (assault, robbery, etc).  By allowing them to avoid unnecessary trips, you not only reduce your vehicle costs, but you help to reduce their chance of injury.

Bottom line
As an industry, I think the leaders of the M2M space need to do a better job in not only showing the CEO of a company what the benefit of an M2M solution might be, but we need to go further to show appeal to the workers.  Not only will this help to reduce the training and deployment costs, it will help to make a better overall solution as we would be getting valuable input from the people whom we need it from the most.

As always, let Novotech know how we can help with your M2M needs, such as antenna selection.  You can visit our web page @ www.novotech.com.  As well, feel free to reach out to me directly ....larry(@)novotech.com.  You can also follow us on Twitter (@NovotechM2M) and you can follow me personally as well (@LBNovotechM2M).