New proximity warning system launched

The Zonr sensor being worn on a site worker's sleeve
Pathfindr, an asset tracking and industrial IoT tech specialist, has developed a smart safety system that creates virtual exclusion zones to protect workers in hazardous environments.

The system, called Zonr, was developed in collaboration with rail contractor, the QTS Group. A proximity alarm alerts workers when a vehicle or other hazard comes close, or if they step into a high-risk area, helping them to avoid potential incidents. It is a development of Pathfindr’s Safe Distancing Assistant, a wearable device to support social distancing launched amid the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Zonr relies on a combination of GPS tracking and ultra-wideband technology to locate workers and hazards, and create a dynamic virtual barrier – or exclusion zone – around those hazards. 

The exclusion zone is created through signals sent between sensors – which can be placed anywhere within a site – and a control unit. The control unit alerts the plant operator to any incursion, and also lets workers themselves know when they have entered an unsafe zone through a sounded alarm on a wearable device.

All set-up is completed through a mobile app, and incursion data is viewed in real-time via a web-based portal – with data transmitted to the cloud via a 5G connection.

The system also gives site operators real-time data over incursions, enabling interventions to be made in the moment, as well as providing holistic data to enable overall health and safety processes to be improved.

Keeping people and plant apart

Ben Sturgess, CTO at Pathfindr, said: “While all sites have health and safety measures and policies in place to protect workers, they rely on human accuracy to identify hazards in fast-moving environments – and we’re all fallible.

“Zonr has been designed to keep people and machines apart, so that workers can focus on doing their jobs efficiently, knowing they’ll be alerted to a hazard. No technology will eliminate the need for continual vigilance, but Zonr reduces the risk of a serious incident and helps site operators manage their liability for the safety of site workers.”

Alan McLeish, MD of QTS Group, added: “Our live sites are dynamic, and no two scenarios are ever identical, which means that ensuring health and safety is an ongoing challenge. We’ve combined our in-depth understanding of the complex ways that railway sites operate with Pathfindr’s smart tech expertise to create a solution that has the potential to have a major impact on the way site safety risk is managed.”

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