Smart Mobility For Hazardous Environments:
- Intrinsically safe devices are designed to be used in potentially explosive environments where gases or flammable materials are present.
- Europe and North America each has its own classification system to outline the types of environments in which certain devices can be used.
- Workers in many industries, from oil and gas to aerospace, routinely benefit from using intrinsically safe devices.
- Smartphones, tablets, cameras, and scanners can all be intrinsically safe by design.
- Smart mobility for hazardous environments enables organisations operating across remote, harsh and hazardous areas to remain safe, connected and productive.
Even though drones, robots, and other newer technologies have removed the need for humans to go into certain dangerous situations and environments, there are some tasks that still require a human hand as well as some form Smart Mobility For Hazardous Environments. There are hazardous (zone 2), or (Division 2) areas where it is enough to simply outfit a traditional mobile device. A non-intrinsically safe, consumer grade handset with a rugged explosion proof case that could protect the mobile device from major drops, damage and waterproof the handset to a degree, while meeting the required intrinsically safe certification. However, this just covers zone 2 and division 2 hazardous areas only. In other cases, especially where flammable and potentially explosive gases or dusts are in play, intrinsically safe mobile devices for zone 1 or division 1 are necessary to help workers remain productive and connected without introducing unnecessary risks into an already dangerous situation.
So, what does it mean for a device to be “intrinsically safe,” and how does that make a device different from those readily available to consumers? It starts with how the device itself is built from the inside out, because while it’s relatively safe for traditional electronics to throw off internal sparks (often referred to as electric arcs), intrinsically safe devices are designed to be used in flammable and potentially explosive environments where even a tiny spark could ignite and cause harm or even death. For that reason, intrinsically safe device manufacturers specifically design their products not to produce these sparks or generate too much heat, which inherently makes them safe to use in a wider range of environments.
While intrinsically safe design is primarily focused on making electronic devices explosion-proof, manufacturers often throw in some extra safety features that make their products even more resistant to damage. For example, an intrinsically safe device may also be hermetically sealed so that it can be used in clean environments, such as hospitals, or it may be sealed in such a way that even if it’s dropped in water or some other liquid, it can survive the experience and keep important information safe and intact.
These design methods give workers in a variety of industries the ability to take advantage of tablets, smartphones, PDAs, cameras, and other devices so they can be more productive and efficient, while also maintaining safety. And by using more efficient devices, workers can spend less time in dangerous environments and get them out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.
As with any safety-related concept, explosion proof mobile devices have to adhere to specific intrinsic safety standards and classifications in order to be used in potentially explosive environments. Some of the most common examples come from the Health and Safety Executive in the U.K and the CSA Group (originally the Canadian Standards Association) in the United States and Canada. In the U.K, the ATEX (ATmospheres EXplosibles) directive is split into two separate directives for European countries. The first is ATEX 137, which states the minimum requirements for protecting workers in explosive environments, and the second directive is ATEX 95, which is more focused on the equipment and systems used in these environments to protect workers from explosions. Whenever a company in the UK is looking for devices that are safe to use in potentially explosive atmospheres, they can look for the ATEX certification and know that the device is intrinsically safe.
For The United States and Canada, the CSA is a testing and certification company that offers services and develops standards for multiple areas, including intrinsically safe design and explosive environments. In this certification model, Class I represents a location where there are enough flammable gases or vapours in the air to produce an explosion; Class II represents a location that has combustible or conductive dust; and Class III represents a location that could have ignitable fibres in the air, but not in high enough concentration for ignition. Then, those classes include divisions, such as Division 1, where hazards exist under normal conditions, and Division 2, where those hazards don’t exist normally but can exist under certain conditions.
The CSA also developed a series of zones as part of a 3-Zone international classification system that adds more granularity and specificity to describing potentially hazardous environments. Zone 0 covers an area that contains explosive gas in the atmosphere for an extended period of time, Zone 1 covers areas where an explosive atmosphere can develop during normal operation, and Zone 2 refers to a location where explosive gas isn’t typically present. The interesting thing about The Class/Division system and the 3-Zone system is that in the U.S, companies have the choice of classifying their products and installations with either system, but all new installations in Canada must now use the 3-Zone system.
Industries & Environments That Require These Devices:
Interestingly enough for a product type that isn’t widely known about, there are actually quite a few industries that require intrinsically safe devices due to potentially flammable and explosive atmospheres and materials. Companies in these industries need powerful devices that can be connected to a central command centre to not only provide constant communication in the event of an emergency, but also to gather data out in the field that can be sent back to the main facility for processing and analysis. And it just so happens that these devices must also be explosion-proof and intrinsically safe, which makes them truly unique in the general mobile device landscape.
Oil and gas is an obvious example, where even a small spark could ignite an entire oil well, resulting in major product loss in addition to putting workers in harm’s way. Mining is another notable example due to coal residue, methane gas, and other materials that can collect inside mines and escape during digging. And then there are utility companies, especially those that deal with natural gas and can’t afford a device to produce sparks, potentially causing an explosion. These are common sense areas where intrinsically safe mobile devices must be used. However, there many other lesser known examples of industries which rely on the same electronic design philosophies for both intrinsic safety, and lone worker protection, including the production of custard powder, which under the right conditions is explosive.
Emergency response teams often must enter some of the most dangerous situations imaginable, such as chemical spills or buildings with broken gas pipes. The aerospace and aviation industry can benefit from intrinsically safe devices connected to sophisticated real-time location applications to better manage both handling processes and worker safety. Pharmaceutical and health care industries can use intrinsically safe devices that don’t let materials in or release contaminants into clean environments where patients’ lives are at stake.
A Matter Of Choice:
Intrinsically safe smartphones, including the Innovation 2.0, IS-520.1 and Smart-Ex 01 are built with the highest levels of intrinsic safety. Meeting stringent certification testing for the safe use across European ATEX, and Global IECEx zones 1 (gas) and 21 (dust), and North American and Canadian Class 1, Division 1,2 hazardous areas. Ultra rugged smartphone mobility which can be taken across some of the worlds most harsh and hostile environments, with temperature fluctuations, high humidity and hazardous dusts. The available choice of intrinsically safe smartphones and explosion proof tablets is relatively quite small with a handful of manufacturers and certified devices vs the consumer space, which today has many hundreds if not thousands of brands and models. However the shift into mobility, is having an impact on those companies who are developing explosion proof mobility, with advancements in technology and capability now showing on some of the latest devices which have 4G LTE, inductive charging and critical national infrastructure (CNI) security as standard.