Launch Of Westinghouse WEConnect System Shows The Broad Potential Of Connected Worker Platforms

On June 4th, Westinghouse Electric Company, one of the largest suppliers of nuclear plant products, technical services and technologies throughout the world announced the launch of a connected worker solution in partnership with Guardhat, an IoT technology provider headquartered in Detroit. The formal launch of the WEConnect system comes after Westinghouse piloted the Guardhat technology at several nuclear power plants during 2019 and 2020 during their scheduled refuelling outages. Westinghouse plans to offer the WEConnect system on a worldwide basis with an initial focus on two usage scenarios: 1) providing a remote expert capability to reduce the number of personnel who need to be on site; 2) optimizing the performance of the work crews who are on site at nuclear facilities in terms of productivity and safety.

The partnership between Westinghouse and Guardhat is particularly significant as it is aimed at bringing Industrial IoT and sophisticated connected worker capabilities to an industry which is known to be risk averse in terms of new tech introduction and is laser focused on the safety implications of any changes to procedures. The vision behind the WeConnect system aligns with the concerns and objectives of nuclear plant operators. Firstly, it will reduce the number of personnel required to be in the reactor building. Secondly, real-time monitoring of worker exposure to environmental hazards improves safety management. Thirdly, the involvement of a specialist IIoT platform provider will help overcome connectivity challenges at nuclear sites.

Verdantix recently surveyed 102 EHS managers to understand their budgets, priorities and preferences for industrial wearables. In line with the strategy for the Westinghouse WEConnect system, 70% already use location tracking wearables at multiple facilities, 74% have adopted wearables for hazardous environment monitoring and 56% use remote expert solutions. Seventy per cent of the respondents also flagged up weak “network and technical infrastructure” as a significant or very significant barrier to success.

The need to protect workers from Covid-19 infection whilst also getting operations back up and running will be a huge catalyst for investment in connected worker solutions. Wearables for proximity tracking can support social distancing behaviours and provide data for tracing exposure to infected cases. Remote expert communication capabilities and augmented reality heads up displays attached to hard hats reduce the need for technical experts to travel to industrial sites. If connected worker platforms can work effectively in nuclear reactor buildings they should be able to work in all industrial situations.

OPEX Launch Of Westinghouse WEConnect System Shows The Broad Potential Of Connected Worker Platforms Verdantix Blog