Technological Advances in EH&S

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This is the first in a series of SFS Chemical Safety articles focusing on EH&S technological advances. Rapidly evolving software, hardware, and mobile technologies have fundamentally changed the EH&S software & technology landscape in recent years. Despite this, the vast majority of corporations in the United States are only now starting to leverage the benefits of these technologies. SFS Chemical Safety is in a unique position to gauge the progress of this transition. Our customers, some of the most high profile organizations in the world, have always been early adapters of new technologies.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Later that year, the internet was just taking its first baby steps. Both of these feats were achieved by long standing customers of our technologies and we salute them both for their past achievements and for their ongoing commitment to cutting edge technological solution. While we were not the first to land on the moon, nor did we invent the internet, Chemical Safety is committed to providing cutting edge software & technology to organizations that change the game. Before you read this first article in the series, take just a brief moment and imagine how the world has evolved since the “giant step for mankind” was first witnessed by so many of us.

How will IoE (the Internet of Everything) transform the EH&S landscape and how will it impact you?

Every week I get a blog from Peter Diamandis (no relation) about innovations that are shaking our world. This week’s message is a simple one: By 2020, the IoE will connect 50 Billion people, devices and things. It will impact everything that you do at home, at work, and everywhere in between.

In the next 10 years, Cisco is projecting IoE will generate $19 trillion of value – $14 trillion from the private sector, and $5 trillion from the government and public sectors (initiatives like smart cities and infrastructure).

A Connected World according to Peter Diamandis

Imagine a world in which everything is connected and packed with sensors. 50+ billion connected devices, loaded with a dozen or more sensors, will create a trillion-sensor ecosystem. These devices will create what I call a state of perfect knowledge, where we’ll be able to know what we want, where we want it, and when we want it. Combined with the power of data mining and machine learning, the value that you can create and the capabilities you will have as an individual, and as a business, will be extraordinary.

Here are a few basic examples to get you thinking:

Retail: Beyond knowing what you purchased, stores will monitor your eye gaze, knowing what you glanced at, what you picked up and considered, and what you put back on the shelf. Dynamic pricing will entice you to pick it up again.

City Traffic: Cars looking for parking cause 40% of traffic in city centers. Parking sensors will tell your car where to find an open spot.

Lighting: Streetlights and house lights will turn on and off as needed- on when you’re nearby, and off when you are not.

Vineyards/Farming: Today IoE enables winemakers to monitor the exact condition (temperature, humidity, sun) of every vine and recommend optimal harvest times. IoE can follow details of fermentation and even assure perfect handling through distribution and sale to the consumer at the wine store.

Dynamic pricing: In the future, everything has dynamic pricing where supply and demand drives pricing. Uber already knows when demand is high, or when I’m stuck miles from my house, and can charge more as a result.

Transportation: Self-driving cars and IoE will make traffic jams a thing of the past.

Healthcare: You will be the CEO of your own health. Wearables will track your vitals constantly, allowing you and your doctor to make better health decisions.

Banking/Insurance: Research shows that if you exercise and eat healthy, you’re more likely to repay your loan. Imagine a variable interest rate (or lower insurance rate) depending on exercise patterns and eating habits?

Forests: With connected sensors placed on trees, urban forests can be made healthier and better able to withstand, perhaps even take advantage of, the effects of climate change.

Office Furniture: Software and sensors embedded in office furniture are being used to improve office productivity, ergonomics, and employee health.

Invisibles: Forget wearables, the next big thing is sensor-based technology that you can’t see, whether they are in jewelry, attached to the skin like a bandage, or perhaps even embedded under the skin or inside the body. By 2017, 30% of wearables will be “unobtrusive to the naked eye,” according to market research firm Gartner.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? You must consider that our world is changing exponentially and though not every prediction will happen as fast as indicated, it will happen!

How is this all going to impact the EH&S Landscape?

The Internet of Everything includes technology that is inexpensive, with an easy entry and exit, and unlimited scaling possibilities. Companies like Tesla (whose CEO, Elon Musk, is arguably one of the world’s greatest visionaries and innovators), SRI International (one of the Internet’s charter members), the US Department of Energy, the US Navy, NASA and some of the world’s largest segment leaders are already using SFS Chemical Safety’s EMS technologies to efficiently and cost-effectively manage chemical safety and compliance.

Whether you use or have thought of using barcodes or RFID tags for tracking chemical use, storage and disposal, these and other technologies will continue to make positive strides in safety and compliance. If you are a businessperson running the EH&S functions of an organization, here are two key things extracted from Peter’s thoughts to consider:

  1. Digitize: Determine which of your processes are not yet digitized and find a way to digitize them. Then, use EH&S technology tools like EMS to collect data and analyze that data. Go from your old-style manual processes (or data collection system) to a smart, easy to use database software.
  2. Skate to the Puck: Have a brainstorm with the smartest members of your team and ask yourselves the following questions:
  3. What kind of sensors will exist in 3 years’ time, and what kind of data could/should we be collecting?
  4. In three years, which of our “things” will be connected and joining the Internet of Everything?

With the answers to these two basic questions, come up with the opportunities the answers offer for improving your workplace and the world around you.

Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

  • Look at barcodes and RFID tags as a possible solution for your operations. The former is the tried and true method for managing inventories, but the ROI is based on accuracy rather than other savings. RFID on the other hand requires an upfront investment to implement, but it can reduce labor and other operational costs.
  • Use mobile Apps. Our client response is almost unanimous. Mobile EH&S apps, like the EMS.GHS, EMS.Inventory and others have proven to be invaluable field tools. Using iPhones and iPads with Wi-Fi or phone connections saves time and improves accuracy.
  • Don’t invest in servers and networks. Your laptop, smartphone or tablet and a good internet connection will do it all.
  • Software like EMS offer more than just the basic tools for chemical management, workplace safety and compliance. They can reduce operational costs through surplus and chemical reuse, reduce disposal costs through the use of green chemical alternatives, and a whole lot more.

Our industry has changed; for the better! “Self-Service IT for EH&S”, a term I coined awhile back, is the new standard for EH&S implementations.

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