Machine Safety: When workers use their own devices

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the new rage. Articles describe BYOD and IT departments are scrambling. How can companies maintain control over machine safety and plant security?


CFE Media, Control Engineering, Plant Engineering, and Consulting-Specifying Engineer, offers Apps for Engineers, an app of apps providing portable software tools for engineers. Courtesy: CFE MediaBring your own device (BYOD) is the new rage. Articles (see below) describe the practice and the IT departments are scrambling. How in the world will companies maintain control over safety and security?

Think of the situation this way. We now have had several years of technically based employees coming out of universities into industry, and most of their class work involved e-mail communication, electronic text books, smart phones allowed into class rooms, social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook), and research via Google or Mozilla Firefox. Text books and conventional libraries are significantly less involved. These key employees are now in technical roles in industry, and their friends are iPhones, iPads, Nooks, Blackberries, Androids…and the list goes on.

Furthermore, matrix codes (including Quick Response, QR codes) are quickly gaining speed in adoption by these hand held devices via scanning apps. They are a new of 2D bar code that is often used to provide access to information through hand held devices that have embedded cameras. The codes, which are small squares with black and white patterns, began to appear in a variety of places, such as magazine and newspaper ads. However, engineers are quickly learning how to apply QR codes in industry.

A matrix code is used to encode some sort of information, such as text, machine drawings or a URL.

Control Engineering offered a video with its February 2013 cover. Courtesy: Control EngineeringHere’s the opportunity (and dilemma). This relatively new wave of technically based employee is anxious to BYOD to the factory floor for day-to-day use in performing their responsibilities. That potentially means using their own devices to access machine data, temporarily engage a machine for a quick repair and re-set, or to report critical data to a resource center. Isn’t this a nightmare for typical old-school IT managers? How can all these unauthorized devices have access to the company’s network while still maintaining safety and security? 

Wireless control panels are available and in use today around machines. Many of these wireless panels also have emergency stop devices meeting standards requirements. Will this mean that BYOD devices could take the place of wireless control panels? If so, will your iPad be compliant for controlling an emergency stop?

Where will BYOD take us?

J.B. Titus, CFSE

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.

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Machine Safety and Wireless Devices

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Anonymous , 10/17/13 09:48 AM:

Each organization should have policies and training in place to approve and secure personal devices. Also ther should be clear specific acceptable practices put into place to protect organization and personal data.
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