Students present digital innovations for improving safety, productivity

Students from the Chicago Tech Academy presented digital innovations at the SAP Manufacturing Industries Forum that are designed to help real-life problems and save lives. The presentations dealt with issues including workplace safety, gun safety, and medical assistance.

By Chris Vavra June 22, 2016

Students from the Chicago Tech Academy presented digital innovations at the SAP Manufacturing Industries Forum on June 14 that are designed to improve safety and productivity not just for manufacturing, but for real-life situations. As SAP Ariba senior vice president and general manager, Pat McCarthy, put it: "How do we help the world run better and help people?"

The three projects had some overlap in that regard as all three were designed to help prevent people from being injured as well as provide information that can alert them to potential hazards and dangers. While the three projects focused on specific aspects of public health and safety, the broader applications from these presentations are somewhat familiar to manufacturers as the world becomes more and more interconnected.

The students demonstrated their applications live to the attendees and showed they worked as well as explained why they chose their subjects. Their reasons and interests varied, but they shared a common theme: Helping the people in their community.

Attendees were asked to vote on which project they liked the best, and the winner was the presentation called "Saving Lives in the Digital Enterprise," which focused on using a tablet and sensors to accurately gather medical information from an ambulance. All three projects presented, however, demonstrated a great deal of innovation and thought by the students. 

Impacting firearm safety with Big Data

Many of the students who attend ChiTech live in neighborhoods where crime is often on their minds. And for the students, trying to make an impact and improve safety is first and foremost.

"We asked ourselves what are the problems within the community, and the first thing that came to mind was the gun violence and how it’s out of control," presenter Aria Walker said. "So we asked ourselves what could we do?"

The answer was to build an app that could help lock guns and also track them within the community. They designed a sensor that is attached to the gun that can lock or unlock the gun via a mobile app. Walker explained that there is an alarm built in that will send a notification if the sensor is tampered with or damaged by the user. There are no limits to how many guns that can be tracked.

"If the gun is registered, it’ll be easier to ID an active shooter, and you can use the app to lock and unlock the gun as well as track on GPS through Google Maps."

The technology the students designed is not new, and there are programs used to protect machines. The app that the students designed to lock and track firearms could also be used for machines on the plant floor and provide real-time information to the plant manager or supervisor. This is especially useful for technology and machines that could harm others if they were used improperly. As Walker said, it’ll come down to user accountability and being responsible for what is happening daily. 

Safety with the Internet of Things (IoT)

Another group developed a pair of industrial safety glasses called the iGuardian that have active and passive features that are designed to improve workplace safety. The glasses have a sensor that can detect temperature, air quality, GPS, and has a time logger. The sensor gathers information about the environment and features a hard-stop and soft-stop feature to alert the user of any potential hazards in the area.

"We did some independent research, and we found the problem was the skills gap" for safety, said presenter Tyler Wilson. "The main issue was industrial accidents and how to prevent those from happening."

Wilson added that it uses scalability to help protect the worker, and the sensors give a 360-deg view of what’s happening around them. This is a major issue for workers who operate in hazardous, potentially dangerous environments like industrial manufacturing and construction.

The information gathered from the sensor is designed to be loaded onto an app called the iGuard that allows the plant manager to see if there are any potential safety issues. The app is designed to break down the information by time, date, and what kinds of accidents have occurred.

"With the alert log, parameters can be set, and it’s mobile-ready and can be used on Android and iOS phones," presenter Abraham Valle said. 

Saving lives in the digital enterprise

The winning presentation focused on improving the flow of vital information to help save patients’ lives as they’re being transported on their way to a hospital. Getting to this topic, however, was almost a story in of itself.

"We started with 20 different areas, and we narrowed it down to the top three, and then we picked what mattered to us the most, and we wanted to see how we could improve safety in the fire station and save lives," presenter Aurice Blanton said.

The firehouse they visited is also the same one that is used for the TV show Chicago Fire, which was a source of pride to the presenters. However, the real-life scenario that awaited them in the ambulance was anything but glamorous.

"The technology inside is so old and so out of date," Blanton said. "We thought the technology would be more up-to-date, to be honest."

The team also learned that there is a major lack of coordination in transmitting information from the ambulance to the hospital. The phone, for example, is designed to only make outgoing calls and has only one button instead of a traditional keypad. It cannot receive calls. Simple information like height, weight, allergies, and other information cannot be easily transmitted, which can be an issue, especially when patients cannot provide crucial information that might save their lives.

The team’s solution was to insert a wire under a gurney with an Apple iPad and scan for vital information that includes fingerprints, x-rays, vitals, and a face scanner. The program scans all of this information and presents the paramedics in the ambulance with the information in 60 seconds. To ensure information accuracy, data is scanned twice to ensure that there isn’t a false positive or something is missing. Currently, this information can take four to five times as long.

"They have problems getting the information that they need," Blanton said.

With the information in hand, the ambulance can then take the patient to the hospital that is closest with two other choices also available. The second choice is another hospital in the vicinity, and the third is the hospital with the patient’s medical history—provided that this information is in the system.

Blanton agreed that making this happen across an entire city would require a major overhaul, and a lot of the technology being used would have to be upgraded or replaced. The costs on the front end, however, would be compensated with the results on the back end. That, to him, is worth it.

"A lot of lives could be saved if the people have the information that they need," when they need it, he said; a scenario that also holds true in industrial emergencies.

Chris Vavra is production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

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Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.