A Greek software company based in the northwestern town of Ioannina is having a global impact thanks to a new app protecting lone workers. “Lone workers” is the term used to describe employees who work in isolation from others, without close or direct supervision of any sort, human or electronic. They include office cleaners, truck drivers, machine operators, maintenance personnel, postal delivery officers and security guards, among many others, and their numbers are rising worldwide. It is estimated, for example, that in the UK alone, lone workers represent 22 percent of the total workforce, due mainly to new technology that allows distance work, coupled with the rising costs of renting and running an office.
The phenomenon is shaking up the labor market but also creating new needs in the area of worker safety. Lone workers often perform tasks that can become routine, exposing them to more risks than people who work in an environment where there is close oversight and other workers who will notice if something goes wrong. The biggest challenge is that they have no one to turn to for help in the event of an accident or, say, an attack. In some cases, such as train or truck drivers, such incidents put other lives at risk too.
Founded in 1999, Terracom has been exploring solutions to this problem for years. In 2014 it launched the QR-Patrol application, a system for managing security patrols and which is today used by 700 companies in 50 countries. It has now expanded its scope with MyLoneWorkers, an innovative system that focuses on managing and monitoring lone workers via internet of things technology (push-to-talk notifications, beacons etc), allowing real-time supervision from a distance.
“It’s basically an online system for monitoring lone workers that is based on cloud technology and is supported by all new-generation devices (android, iPhone/iPad, Blackberry OS 10 and above) and uses NFC tags, QR codes and beacons,” explains Alexios Foukis, account manager at Terracom Informatics. “The worker uses a smartphone to scan the various checkpoints (NFC and/or QR codes and/or beacons) placed on buildings in the vicinity and the control room is instantly informed of any new incident in the work area. Every incident report indicates the worker’s location through Wi-Fi and GSM networks.”
Foukis says that the app allows lone workers to contact the control center fast if something goes wrong and also allows companies to have better oversight of the work being done for them from a distance.
“A hotel cleaner assigned 10 rooms, for example, can check in when he or she is done, or receive new instructions from the supervisor,” says Foukis.