Yesterday, Apple Computer announced the released of its new iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Besides a much larger screen on both phone models, one of the new features that I’m looking forward to is the addition of the NFC capabilities on all 3 devices. NFC has the potential to dramatically change the profession of environmental, health and safety.
So what is NFC?
NFC stands for Near-Field Communication. NFC is a set of standards for mobile devices to establish radio communication with each other. Typically, the user establishes communication by contacting one device to the other, or bringing them into close proximity. The distance required to establish communications is only several centimeters. Moreover, communication does not have to be between two phones. It can be between a stationary base station or a non-powered microchip or tag. And, since NFC has a short range and supports encryption, NFC is more secure than the earlier RFID systems.
So, how will this technology dramatically change the field of environmental, health and safety?
Well, its no secret that many of the common EHS tasks center around the following areas:
- Inspections. If you examine almost any regulation, there’s a mandatory inspection element. Inspection of equipment for machine guarding, lockout/tagout capabilities, and electrical safety. Inspection of hazardous wastes storage areas, fire extinguishers, and laboratories. With NFC capabilities, employees will be able to record completion of the task directly into the company’s EHS software system. And, because with NFC the communication is a short distance, it will provide proof that someone with in the physical location. Of course, the less than ethical person could let someone else use their phone, but that person probably won’t last long in the EHS field.
- Training: EHS professionals tend to perform a lot of in-person and computer-base training. Tired of getting people to sign the legacy training rosters? Why not have a NFC tag embedded in their employee ID card? Scan the ID card and have the information uploaded immediately to the training records database. Have a particularly hazardous operation? Why not have a NFC tag on the entry door to the room, and require that a short-training video be reviewed on their iPhone prior to entry into the room. Need an employee to review a potent compound safety monograph prior to working with a compound, simply have them scan a chip on the container and an OEL Fastrac monograph appears right on their iPhone. Just like magic.
- Monitoring and data collection: EHS professionals spend a tremendous amount of time collecting data. Data collection activities may be from industrial hygiene equipment, performing potent compound safety containment validations or surrogate monitoring, determining environmental metrics, or chemical inventories. With a device as simple as the iPhone in your pocket, look for more timely and accurate data collection practices. No need to purchase expensive and difficult to use barcode scanners.
- Assessments: Performing a qualitative exposure assessment? With NFC capabilities, much of the data collection can be automated and load directly into your qualitative exposure assessment software.
The goal of NFC should not be having some new technology to waste time on, but should be not letting technology get in the way of us performing the tasks we were hired to perform. With the soon to be announced release of Affytrac with responsive design, which will work on any device (desktop, tablet, or smartphone), expect us to start experimenting with NFC capabilities. We don’t know much about the Apple Watch yet, so that we will have to wait till it’s released. The future of EHS is literally in our hands, or wrist for that matter! To stay posted on these developments, go to http://affygility.com/contact/ to receive updates.