In an increasingly interconnected world, businesses from all industries must ensure that cross-team communication is flawless. Not only is it important in order for specific job roles to function effectively, but also from a safety perspective as well, asserts Klaus Allion. From lone workers to those in an ATEX environment, having the right tools to communicate information or critical alerts is absolutely essential, and this means workers must have a dedicated, streamlined and reliable device to hand at all times.
Often, when selecting the right device for these tasks, a smart phone is a common choice. We all use them in our personal lives to communicate via phone, but also for integrated text messaging, diary alerts, e-mails and Internet access: all in one device. However, businesses need to analyse the numerous options available to suit their unique set of challenges, from operating systems to format and functionality.
It’s definitely not the straightforward buying decision that many managers presume it is. After all, smart phone purchases can often be based on emotion rather than any sort of logical reasoning, because when it comes to the latest technology people frequently go for their preferred personal option, for instance the latest iPhone model. However, when applying this technology to business environments, that’s not necessarily the smartest route to follow. What could it cost businesses that fail to give the decision deeper consideration?
Choosing from the crowd
With so much choice in lone working and communications solutions for manufacturing environments, it’s challenging for businesses to identify the most appropriate device for them. The familiarity and perceived low overall cost of smart phones often make them an attractive option for many, but businesses frequently overlook the key functionalities that can take the standard smart phone technology to the next level and augment it into a multifunctional tool that unites several aspects into a single device to help a business manage its alarms, communicate with colleagues and, crucially, keep them safe.
Simply buying the cheapest, most basic tier smart phones could spell disaster, because with unnecessary features still enabled, such as access to social media, or a lack of compatibility with certain safety apps, employers are risking the safety of entire teams and individuals through distraction or a complicated set-up.
Once a business has determined that a smart phone is the best device to meet its overall needs, it must then take a detailed look into what’s required as an organisation, and then assess any particular ways to integrate it into other areas of the business. For instance, individual team members operating in ATEX environments require a smart phone that’s intrinsically safe and may also need a device that can withstand being dropped, or can be used by multiple shift operatives with a hot-swappable battery.
It’s not just about the physical handset, either. Smart phones can be more than phones. Rather, they can be turned into streamlined safety devices as well as primary communication tools. By combining devise functionalities in this way, employers can reduce the number of technology products employees have to learn and carry, and thereby create the most efficient approach to address employee well-being, in turn offering vast savings in training, technology purchases and maintenance.
Smart phones that have been adapted and chosen correctly can also be used as lone worker devices and optimised to enable features such as ‘push to talk’ technology. As well as other functions, for instance being able to help rapid response teams find lone workers through real-time maps or easy troubleshooting capabilities for engineers.
There are even apps available that disable certain mobile phone functions to help those long-haul delivery drivers to maintain their focus, for instance, or so night-shift workers don’t rack up business phone bills. This is particularly important as statistics from the British Security Industry Association cite that the employees facing the greatest levels of risk are delivery and HGV drivers.
However, not all these apps are available on Android and iOS, which means that, unless businesses conduct the proper research and address due diligence, they may end up with the wrong device. It could be a costly mistake.
To avoid this, each organisation must be aware that it will have its own unique set of challenges. While the Internet makes it easy to compare the technical specifications of individual smart phones, some key features can easily be overlooked. For example, for manufacturing environments or ATEX zones, is the smart phone compliant with regulations and does it offer a button that can be pressed to raise an immediate alert even if the phone’s locked? If not, is that device the right fit for every potential scenario that the company’s employees may face?
Choosing a device with smart integrated lone worker functionality means devices can be equipped with panic buttons, tilt and no-motion sensors as well as impact alarms. When a driver is parked up in a lay-by or on an industrial estate and is more susceptible to an attack or robbery, alarms can be activated, which will then alert the appropriate response teams to provide the necessary support as quickly as possible. These features are crucial within a safety context and can save businesses vast amounts in costs, both financial and human.
With a vastly distributed workforce in constant operation across many industries, smart phones enable organisations to stay in regular contact with their employees, digitise many necessary processes and deliver welcome Health and Safety benefits to staff. Integrated smart phone devices combine reliable communication and comprehensive lone worker protection into a single integrated and adaptable device that can be an ideal solution once tailored.
By partnering with an unbiased solutions supplier, businesses can work collaboratively to analyse these components and ensure they ‘get it right’ for employees using such new technology on a day-to-day basis. This will assist in maximising productivity and safety at the same time.
Klaus Allion is Managing Director at ANT Telecom