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Two ESCP Europe students and Professor Wei Zhou looked into IoT-based applications in high-risk Environment, Health, and Safety industries, and came up with ways to lower risks and make operations more efficient.

Transportation incidents are a top cause of fatal work injuries in the United States: 40 percent in 2016! But “remote monitoring of dispersed or isolated operations can reduce worker travel demands, such as the need for oil and gas workers to travel across sites to check on wellheads, pump stations and storage sites”, explain ESCP Europe PhD candidate Huihui Chi, Master in Management graduate Thibaud Montbel, whose thesis on the same topic had been rewarded by the IOT Chair, Professor Wei Zhou and University of Florida Professor Selwyn Piramuthu, in their article published in Decision Support Systems. Remote access is only one field in high-risk Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) industries (along with operations visibility, worker locating, information delivery, ease compliance, to name but a few) in which the Internet of Things (IoT) has been shown to have a significant potential due to the tremendous value of enhancing worker and environmental safety by connecting people. “In these industries, human lives are at stake and IoT-based applications are primed to offer safe, reliable, and efficient solutions due to their ability to operate at a fine granular level and provide rich low-level information”.

Identifying research gaps

The authors provide a comprehensive overview of publications about high-risk EHS industries from an IoT-based perspective, with specific emphasis on the healthcare industry, food supply chain (FSC), mining and energy industries (oil & gas and nuclear), intelligent transportation (e.g., connected vehicles), and building & infrastructure management for emergency response operations. Their paper is the first to systematically review the recent advances of IoT research in high-risk EHS industries, and both the industry and the academic sphere could benefit from an overview of the state-of-art from the 121 research papers they selected. “Despite the rising awareness and industry demand of IoT technologies, especially in the high-risk environment health and safety industry, most of the existing literature has mainly focused on specific problems and there is a lack of systematic review of the recent past that also provides research agenda for the near future, they add. We build a framework that suggests the research gaps and directs future research in this important field”.

Challenges exist, but so do solutions

Solutions listed by the researchers

Thibaud Montbel, Huihui Chi, Wei Zhou and Selwyn Piramuthu also highlighted IoT-related challenges and proposed solutions in high risk EHS industries: one of the main challenges IoT technology faces is its weak communication security and lack of data privacy protection. They suggest that future research should be directed to more secure near field communication (NFC) technologies as well as to enact more specific regulation policies, such as those in the recent GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). Another challenge is that the read error rate might surge in certain environments and conditions. In healthcare institutes, for example, because the on-site working environment can be very complicated, the read error can be high and consequently it may cause the IoT system to be unusable. In the oil and gas industry, because most of the containers, pipes, and machinery contain metal parts, the false negative rate is high for IoT devices. The possible solutions that they reviewed and proposed indicate that more research effort could be directed to the field of smart IoT devices based on data analytics. They also suggest that innovative designs of business process management based on IoT may help improve the performance of this emerging technology.

The authors conclude by presenting research challenges and expected trends for IoT in these industries, “the extensive usage of data analytics along with IoT devices to "smartify" not only the devices, but also the business processes” among others…