Calgary company keeping industrial workers safe with wearables

Calgary-based company Blackline Safety is keeping industrial workers safe globally with its wearables, collectively branded G7.

How it works

The company provides workers with a wearable device that will alert someone if the person wearing it is in danger. For example if there is a high level of toxic gas in the working environment, or someone suffers a fall, the device can detect it and call for help. 

“It’s a generalized, wearable safety device where if something happens to that industrial worker, we send a signal from that device to the monitoring centre that we run. Then people in this monitoring centre will call the employee, talk to them through the device and send help as needed,” said Sean Stinson, chief revenue officer for Blackline Safety. 

Sean Stinson, chief revenue officer. Source: Blackline Safety

The Wearables

Stinson said there are two main G7 variants: A cellular connected device and a satellite connected unit. 

Source: Blackline Safety

The cellular connected device instantly links to the Blackline Cloud via available cellular networks. The satellite connected device wirelessly links workers to the Blackline Cloud through the Iridium satellite network, wherever they may be working. 

“If you wanted to sail a boat across the Atlantic Ocean, you could take the satellite G7 with you and you’d have connectivity across the whole planet. It doesn’t matter where you go,” said Stinson. 

According to Stinson, Blackline Safety’s wearables have also detected heart attacks, since the device was able to pick up the impact from the fall. Within seconds someone was alerted and able to dispatch a worker close by to help the client.

“We’ve literally saved lives through this product,” he said.

Blackline Safety makes everything in house. The company designs its own plastics and has hardware, software and firmware engineers to build the cloud servers that connect the wearables.

Major multinational companies such as FedEx, Amazon, Coca Cola and Pfizer have been using the devices, however, Blackline Safety devices are also being used closer to home. 

The company teamed up with the Calgary Zoo to provide them with G7 Lone Worker monitors for employees to wear. The device has a push to talk feature, allowing them to speak with co-workers as though on a walkie talkie. Stinson said the company donated about a quarter of a million dollars worth of services and equipment to the zoo. 

Pandemic Impact

While the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected numerous businesses and sectors globally, Blackline Safety actually saw a 20 per cent growth in 2020. It caters to a group of people who had to continue working in-person when the pandemic hit. 

“I think that is partly because there’s a lot of demand for what we do. There’s actually really nobody else that really does exactly what we do in terms of creating these connected safety products for industrial workers,” Stinson said. 

“We serve industrial markets, and the industrial markets didn’t really slow down that much during the pandemic,” he noted. “Our customers are people that purify water, deliver electricity and natural gas, and make drugs. Those things didn’t really slow down during the pandemic.”

What’s next?

Blackline Safety is now focusing on expanding with further innovations, including extending the battery life of wearables and launching a line of smartphone apps. According to Stinson the long life product planned for release in the summer of 2022 will be called the G6.

The company is looking to deliver a product that has more than a year of battery life without having to charge it. Stinson said top priority for this product is to ensure it blends into workers’ lives seamlessly. It has to be affordable, easy to wear and non-invasive. 

“It has to be so easy to use that people don’t ever get to that mindset of like, well, I’m probably not going to get hurt today. So my battery’s dead. I’m just gonna leave it [at home].”

Blackline Safety also wants to create a smartphone app that is completely free for most users. For Stinson, it’s not all about profit, but also being able to support clients and their families. 

“I want this app to do something more than just turn a profit for the company. I think there’s a way for us to create an app that’s completely free for most people.”

He said because the company focuses on industrial workers, it wants to be able to deliver a way that workers can connect with their families and let them know they are okay, since some of these jobs can be dangerous and in remote areas.

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Samira Balsara
Samira Balsara
Samira is a writer for IT World Canada. She is currently pursuing a journalism degree at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly known as Ryerson) and hopes to become a news anchor or write journalistic profiles. You can email her at [email protected]

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