Product features a camera, phone, collision avoidance system and more
Imagine a hard hat that not only protects you from falling loose material, but also has a central processing unit, an Android operating system, a camera, a microphone, a speaker, a USB port, GPS, Bluetooth, LTE, WiFi and a battery. It sounds like science fiction, but Sudbury-based Jannatec Technologies is all set to begin taking orders for the futuristic product after investing close to $4 million during three and a half years of research and development.
In addition to integrating most of the features of a smartphone, the Jannatec hard hat also features high visibility LED lights around the brim, an RFID tag for tracking, and integrates with Jannatec’s Advanced Warning collision avoidance technology, marketed as JAWS.
Regrettably, it doesn’t make coffee, and there’s no can opener.
Jannatec is ready to begin marketing it to mining companies in the Sudbury Basin as a prelude to a full-scale rollout to the global mining industry, but also sees opportunity in the rail, oil and gas, and construction industries.
The company describes the product as an industrial communication platform that provides end users with one dedicated vendor for a wide range of communication technologies.
The product will sell for between $500 and $600 – the price of a mid-range cell phone.
“It has been a long haul and a lot of work, but we’re really happy because now we’re at the stage where we’re ready to commercialize the product,” said Jannatec Technologies president Wayne Ablitt.
The product comes with a Bluetooth enabled display and keypad that straps to a miner’s wrist.
Equipped with the Jannatec product, a mechanic will be able to snap a photo of a piece of equipment, send it to a colleague, view an instructional video from a supplier’s website, access a maintenance manual or call the manufacturer for technical support.
The hard hat accommodates Jannatec’s own Johnny Light cap lamp, the product it’s best known for, but also works with third-party devices.
In the future, according to Ablitt, it will also accommodate the collection of biometric data, including heart rate and body temperature to warn miners and supervisors of heat stress in deep mines.
The product can be customized to suit the client.
“If they don’t have the budget to go with everything right away, they can go with the high-viz and add LTE, WiFi and proximity detection when they’re ready,” said Jannatec sales representative Mark Burnett.
It would just be necessary to replace the detachable brim of the hard hat where all the smarts are located.
The product won’t immediately replace the use of the VHF radios in existing mines with extensive leaky feeder infrastructure, said Ablitt.
“Currently, in the Sudbury Basin, they’re mostly using VHF. The mines have begun the process of moving to high-speed data – LTE – but it won’t be an instantaneous change. There will be hotspots, so it will be more of a hybrid system.”
The research and development was carried out under the umbrella of the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation’s Ultra Deep Mining Network and received additional support from the Ontario Centres of Excellence and two federal government programs: the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program.
Jannatec also worked with several academic institutions to develop the product, including Laurentian University, Brock University in St. Catharines and George Brown College in Toronto.
“It’s very difficult for a company our size if we don’t get funding to assist us,” said Ablitt. “We might not have even done the project if not for the assistance.
Working on the design and development of the product has changed Jannatec, he added. “It has allowed us to develop the whole engineering side of our business. In the early days, we had one engineer on staff part-time. Now we have as many as seven people working in our lab on software and hardware. It has made us a better company.”