Once the decision has been made to develop a smart product or smart system, PPE manufacturers still face the critical question: What should the use case contain? Which behaviors should the system enable?

The IoT nearly is limitless, and there are hundreds of applications for every industry and hundreds for each product. While these are some of the most common applications of wearables and sensors in PPE, they are not the only ones by far:

  1. Locating system – Smart mines are cropping up today which use a network system to identify the location of each miner.
  2. Smart communication systems – Smart helmets, ear muffs and face masks provide fast, effective communication in loud or low-visual environments.
  3. Safer equipment – Smart lockout/tagout, backing cameras and warning devices, smart automation on machines and other automated safety measures keep workers safer.
  4. Environmental protection from invisible risks – Smart protective clothing with gas, chemical, heat, sound, UV, impact and pulse sensors monitor both the external environment and the user, alerting them to danger in time for preventative steps and alerting supervisors if workers are in trouble.
  5. Improve efficiency through remote management – Smart, connected safety containers monitor hazardous materials via chemical and liquid sensors, and send regular notifications or LED/sound alerts when things are fine. And if there is a leak, the smart container alerts the control room directly.
  6. Phone-based app alerts – Smart sensors and wearables connected to apps can send crucial alerts, from notifying EMTs that their medicine is out of date, to alerting users when they misuse a tool, to warnings about weather and emergency situations at a facility.

The Future for Smart PPE Products

In theory, IoT is an equal opportunity incubator for innovation; however, it often differentiates between companies of varying resources and experience. Developing smart products is complicated, expensive and risky. Smaller companies may have difficulty acquiring the many resources and teams necessary to ideate, develop and produce a smart product and bring it to market. The companies that find it easier to handle these new processes and the complications involved are enterprises; companies with pre-existing R&D teams or those with electronic departments. And even these companies can find the integration of hardware, firmware and software, the collaboration between teams and the numerous steps involved, complicated.

Thankfully, IoT development platforms are emerging that enable companies of all sizes and resource levels to take advantage of smart technology. With a platform for concept design and development, product managers can innovate and plan the right concept for their needs, choose exactly which hardware and smart behaviors they want and differentiate their offering through their choice of hardware and software.

Even business planning, costs and timeline estimation happen more smoothly with a platform, as it allows for collaboration between teams and easy concept testing.

Unlike add-ons, platforms and their IoT ecosystems also give product manufacturers the power to choose their providers for hardware, app development, prototyping and production. Most importantly, with their development software and guidance, platforms generate a level playing field by enabling any company, whatever their tech resources or size, to develop smart products.

As time goes on, IoT platforms will merge to create strong ecosystems that provide a full suite of solutions for developing smart PPE products. With a single platform and its marketplace of partners, PPE manufacturers can take a smart concept from the initial idea to prototype creation to production, and even get insight through collected data. With these solutions making IoT development easier and faster than ever, companies of all sizes will soon adopt smart technology and develop more wearables and sensors for PPE.

IoT is changing how we think about PPE. Just as the introduction of seatbelts led to new regulations about driving safety, smart technology will raise the standards of health and safety. The opportunity to save lives, cut down on injury-related costs and drive product differentiation through innovation is available and active now.

Lior Akavia, co-founder and CEO of Seebo, always has been passionate about integrating the physical and digital worlds. His understanding of complex technology, combined with an ability to intuit where the ball is going, has led him to the rapidly changing field of IoT. With his brother Liran, he previously launched Playfect (acquired), a company manufacturing gaming accessories for Wii, Playstation and Xbox. It was there that they realized the difficulty of developing connected devices, and decided to solve the challenge once and for all and founded Seebo. Akavia can be reached at lior@seebo.com.