Calgary firm offers hardened personal monitor

A Calgary company has added another cellphone-sized personal monitor to its line-up for technicians, meter readers, sales people and others who often work alone.

Blackline GPS Corp. said Tuesday that its new Loner IS worker safety device is particularly toughened it won’t spark a fire or explosion in hazardous environments.

That means it meets the Underwriter Labs 913 standard for electronic devices.

The IS model “really opens up the opportunity to sell into industrial markets where there is a potential to have an explosion,” said Brendon Cook, the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder.

Like the less-hardened Loner SMD – a second-generation model introduced earlier this year — the IS model can detect if a person wearing the device falls or is still for a period of time, and sends a wireless alert over a GPRS cellular network with GPS-tagged location information.
 
The alert – which can also be triggered manually — goes to a Blackline hosted Web site which can either be monitored by a customer or Blackline. The devices can also send a text or email message to a designated person.

There’s also an application for BlackBerrys that allows a user to manually trigger an alarm. A separate module can be rented module called the Loner FDU that wirelessly links to a BlackBerry which adds fall protection notification.

Blackline sells its monitors as a turnkey solution: It buys airtime from some 150 cellular carriers around the world, so is able to offer a $25 a month per device service to customers. Or, for those who want, there’s an annual fee.

For an additional cost it will also monitor alerts.

Cook said the company was founded in 2004 and made vehicle safety and location devices. But when Calgary’s electrical utility was looking for a mobile monitor for its meter readers the company expanded into a new market.

Now, in addition to the Loner line, it makes the Javelin and FlatTrack covert vehicle trackers for corporate customers and law enforcement.

Cook noted that while many countries have legislation or regulations obliging employers to protect staff, Canadian provinces are unique in that they have laws that protect employees who work alone.

Customers can either buy service direct from Blackline or through Procon Systems Inc., which sells to the Canadian energy, utility and other industrial markets.

Blackline GPS [TSXV: BLN] is traded on the TSX venture exchange. Last month it announced it raised $4 million privately, half of which was taken up by DAK Investments Corp., which will go to product development.

In June Blackline reported a loss of $894.8 million for the quarter ending April 30 on sales of $521.6 million. That was a 35 per cent increase in revenue over the same period in 2011.  For the same period a year ago it lost $978.8 million.

“Blackline has fully transitioned to a business-to-business service provider as we now have the award winning products, effective margins, and open sales channels,” CEO Cody Slater said in a news release with the figures. “Going into the second half of FY2012 the company is now positioned to look forward to continual growth as we expand our sales channels and product portfolio.”