How Wearables Play a Key Role in Worker Competition



When connected to the belts of factory workers, the device can sense unsafe postures and movements-providing analysis for employers and insurance companies.

(IoT) Internet of things is about to permeate all aspects of our lives, including not only smart homes but also workplaces. Now, Internet of things hardware may play a key role in insurance-especially in workers’ compensation.

Earlier this month, New York-based Kinetic announced a partnership with Nationwide Insurance to introduce an insurance policy for workers who rely on Internet of things-based devices called Kinetic Reflex.


Wearable devices for workplace security

The Reflex is an Internet of things-based wearable device designed to improve the safety of workers in manually tilted occupations, such as warehouses. The device is fixed to the worker’s belt and is about the size of a pager and uses airborne sensors to monitor the worker’s movements and biomechanics. The device then transmits tracking metrics such as posture and unsafe movements (incorrect twist or rotation) to a software platform called the Kinetic dashboard.


Here, the Kinetic platform can use a variety of machine learning and other proprietary algorithms to provide viable insights into worker safety. The device can even vibrate to show workers that they are doing something unsafe.

According to Kinetic, external actuarial consultants have confirmed that using their equipment can reduce the frequency of injuries by 50 to 60 percent and reduce the loss of working days by up to 72 percent. The data come from events reported by OSHA, including sprain, strain, and days of absenteeism. The data is also collected from 15 million hours of work in a number of industries and takes into account the 2.1 million hours employees wear Reflex.


The Underlying Hardware of Reflex

As a battery-powered Internet of things device, the Reflex faces design challenges: it must be small enough to hang on the waist, powerful enough to perform ML reasoning, and low enough power to have usable battery life. To meet each of these requirements, Kinetic built its Reflex platform on Digi International technology, including its ConnectCore 6UL single board computer.


ConnectCore 6UL is a NXP i.MX6UL-2-based system-level module (SoM), with 528 MHz Cortex-A7 kernel and ultra-low-power Arm Cortex-M0+ core. Measuring 29mm x 29mm, the SoM integrates up to 1 GB of NAND flash memory and up to 1 GB of DDR3 as well as Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi connections. The device also has a low power consumption mode as low as 2.5 uA (3 V) and a maximum RF power as low as 63.1 mW.

The SoM is used in Reflex to support a variety of mechanical and biomechanical sensors to provide equipment with valuable real-time data.

Insurance Based on the Internet of Things

With its proven products, Kinetic partnered with Nationwide Insurance to provide what it claims to be the industry’s first Internet of things-based worker compensation policy.

The policy requires companies to purchase and install Reflex for their employees. As long as 85% of employees use the device, the policy will remain valid, and the company will receive a policy discount-a security function discount similar to auto insurance. The overall goal is to focus on workers’ exercise habits in order to prevent injuries, protect workers and reduce the company’s policy costs.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinetic extended the use case of Reflex in an industrial environment by adding contact tracking. Today, Reflex devices use Bluetooth to record every interaction between employees and transmit data to the dashboard, where exposed employees can be easily identified. One concern, of course, is that the device will be maliciously used by managers to track employee performance and manual labor compared to their peers. However, Kinetic says the device has a more altruistic and optimistic intention: it intends to use Reflex to show management when employees are overworked, or even expose this fact to insurance companies.

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