How One Wearable May Play a Key Role in Workers’ Comp
When attached to factory workers' waistbands, the device can sense unsafe postures and movements—providing analytics for employers and insurance companies.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is poised to permeate every part of our lives, not only with the smart home but also in the workplace. Now, IoT hardware may play a critical role in insurance—specifically with workers' compensation.
Earlier this month, New York-based Kinetic announced a partnership with Nationwide Insurance to introduce an insurance policy for workers’ comp that relies on an IoT-based device called Kinetic Reflex.
What's at the heart of this technology? And how might it reflect a future in which the IoT and insurance policies go hand in hand?
Wearables for Workplace Safety
Reflex is an IoT-based wearable device designed to increase safety for workers in manual-inclined occupations, such as in warehouses. Fastened to a worker’s waistband, the device—about the size of a pager—utilizes onboard sensors to monitor and a worker’s movements and biomechanics. This device then transmits tracking metrics like posture and unsafe motions (improper twisting or turning) to a software platform called Kinetic dashboard.
The Kinetic Reflex. Image from Kinetic
Here, the Kinetic platform can use a variety of machine learning and other proprietary algorithms to offer actionable insight into the worker’s safety. The device can even vibrate to indicate to a worker that they are doing something unsafe.
According to Kinetic, outside actuarial consulting firms have verified that using their device can reduce injury frequency by 50% to 60% while reducing lost workdays by up to 72%. This data was pulled from OSHA-reported incidents, including sprains, strains, and days of missed work. The data was also collected from 15 million hours of work spanning a number of industries—and took into account 2.1 million hours in which workers wore Reflex.
Reflex’s Underlying Hardware
A battery-powered IoT device, Reflex is tasked with a variety of design challenges: it must be small enough to be waist-mounted, powerful enough to perform ML inferencing, and low power enough to have a usable battery life. To meet each of these requirements, Kinetic built its Reflex platform on Digi International's technology, including its ConnectCore 6UL single board computer.
A look at the ConnectCore 6UL. Image from Digi International
The ConnectCore 6UL is a system-on-module (SoM) based on the NXP i.MX6UL-2, featuring a 528 MHz Cortex-A7 core as well as an ultra-low-power Arm Cortex-M0+ core. The SoM, which comes in a 29 mm x 29 mm footprint, integrates up to 1 GB of NAND flash as well as up to 1 GB of DDR3 along with Bluetooth 5 and Wi-Fi connectivity. The device also boasts low power modes as low as 2.5 uA at 3 V with maximum radio frequency power as low as 63.1 mW.
This SoM is used in Reflex to support the variety of mechanical and biomechanical sensors that provide the device with valuable real-time data.
With its proven product, Kinetic has teamed up with Nationwide Insurance to offer what it claims is the industry’s first worker’s compensation policy based on IoT.
The policy entails that a company purchase and install the Reflex on its workers. As long as 85% of workers utilize the device, the policy remains active and the company receives a discount on its policy—similar to discounts on car insurance for safety features. The goal overall is to bring attention to a worker’s movement habits to prevent injuries before they happen, protecting the workers and decreasing the policy cost for the companies.
Reflex gives users a HRP (high-risk posture) score and a light vibration when he or she is moving in a potentially unsafe way. Image used courtesy of Kinetic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Kinetic expanded the use cases for Reflex in industrial settings by adding contact tracing. Now, Reflex devices use Bluetooth to record every interaction between employees and transmit data to a dashboard where exposed employees can be easily identified.
One fear, of course, is that the device will be used nefariously for management to track a worker’s performance and physical effort against their peers. Kinetic, however, has stated a more altruistic and optimistic intention for the device: it intends for Reflex to be used to show management if employees are overworked and even expose this fact to insurance companies.
Featured image used courtesy of Kinetic.