i.safe MOBILE - Intrinsically safe mobile-device solutions

The possession of electronic personal equipment, such as GPS and digital cameras, reduces the number of workers required to perform maintenance in hazardous areas. Michael Bergmeier, managing director at i.safe MOBILE discusses the benefits an integrated smartphone can provide in these situations.

Why is there a demand for modern communication equipment for use in hazardous areas?

Michael Bergmeier: Electronic personal protective equipment allows one lone worker to perform maintenance in hazardous areas where earlier safety regulations required the presence of multiple staff members. GPS allows rescue services to pinpoint the location of an injured worker, while pagers, radio and mobile phones ensure non-interrupted contact.

Digital cameras for documentation purposes have become an integral part in the worker's environment while notebooks or PDAs with wireless communication abilities allow the worker direct access to schematics and maintenance diagrams, and make it possible to put the results of their work instantly into the company computer system.

Electronic tools for use in explosive atmospheres need to be very robust. Add in the protective elements needed to ensure safe operation even under fault conditions and you end up with very large, heavy and expensive equipment, most often with each device manufactured by a different company - creating its own set of difficulties in maintaining this equipment.

What was the thinking behind your smartphone?

The basic idea behind our smartphone was to integrate all of the devices listed above into one single device with a weight less than 250g. With the integrated camera and voice recorder, INNOVATION 2.0 can be used for documentation. The camera can read 1D and 2D barcodes; the reader incorporated into the battery reads NFC tags. Push-to-talk allows use of the phone in the same way a traditional radio can be used with one-on-one or group communication at the press of a button, but without the range limitations of traditional radios. Man-down protection, GPS pinpointing and lone-worker protection guarantee the highest level of safety. 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth allow seamless integration into a company network. Last but not least, the Android operating system allows integration of company-specific programmes or web-based applications to fully and seamlessly integrate the product into the company network.

For what sort of environments are your products particularly suited?

We offer phones certified for two different environments:

  • Areas classified as ATEX/IECEx Zone 2 or NEC500 DIV 2: locations in which an explosive mixture is not likely to occur in normal operation and, if it occurs, it will exist only for a short time. The phones certified for use in these areas are required to be safe under normal operating conditions, including physical abuse, like drops or impacts. To achieve this level of safety, comparably limited modifications are required, keeping the price tag of these devices very low.
  • ATEX/IECEx Zone 1 or NEC500 DIV 1 classified: areas in which an explosive mixture is likely to frequently occur in normal operation. Phones certified for use in these areas are required to be safe even under multiple fault conditions. This results in the need for redundant safety circuits, heat sinks and specially tested electronics.


What are the differences between normal phones and your phones?

Even if our phones look like normal phones from the outside, they most definitely are not. Every part, from the housing to the battery, and even the smallest capacitor, has been evaluated and tested.

To prevent sparks or hot surfaces even under fault conditions, such as a short circuit in the phone, energy levels need to be monitored and limited for each and every part of the PCB. To achieve a Zone 1/DIV1 certification, we need to implement all of these circuits three times, to achieve the necessary redundancy. By building the phones from the ground up, we are able to integrate a lot of the necessary safety and control electronics into the PCB itself. This allows us to offer some of the smallest and lightest devices available on the market, while still maintaining ruggedness, and a high dust and liquid protection level.

Which safety technology is fundamental to your products?

Keeping the worker safe from harm is as integral to our safety strategy as preventing explosions. Without adding to the price, all of our devices include basic lone-worker protection, like a man-down alert, where the phone emits an audible tone or sends an SMS alert to preconfigured phone numbers when no movement over a specified time period is detected. More sophisticated solutions, including a dead-man's switch, inclination based man-down alerts or automated GPS or NFC-based positioning and alerts are available. With the INNOVATION 2.0 and its scalable software platform, our engineers can adapt and expand the functions according to the customer's needs.

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i.safe MOBILE
URL: www.isafe-mobile.com

The INNOVATION 2.0 from i.safe mobile.
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