Geofencing and privacy: how to protect company and workers

Protecting one’s company with geofencing and ensuring privacy for every worker is possible, but it is necessary to know the best tools and how to use them, ensuring accurate location awareness while complying with regulations.

However, it is important to first understand what you are talking about: what is location awareness and geofencing and why can the latter be really useful for your company?

What is the best way to use geofencing activities to protect everyone?

And what are the limits that need to be respected to ensure that workers’ privacy is protected?

Geofencing: what it is and how it works

Simply put, geofencing is the set of all activities that take place the moment a mobile device enters or leaves a virtually demarcated area. In fact, the term geofence means precisely a virtual perimeter.

Location awareness actively or passively determines where a person or object is. This is the system on which car navigators are built: they recognize the coordinates of the vehicle, position it within a map, and be able to guide it by following it further via the returned data.

The basics of geofencing fall under connectivity systems such as GPS or Wi-Fi according to the algorithmic logic known as “if – then”, meaning that if the device enters this virtual area, this signal is activated.

Once the radius of action is defined, which could be a company or an industrial plant but also a home or a store, it is possible to benefit from the many advantages of geofencing:

  • Safety at work, just imagine how easy it is – with appropriate devices – to locate all workers during a fire evacuation, for example, or to send help to an employee involved in an accident with the company vehicle during work activities, or, again, to respond in case of a man down.
  • Dynamic monitoring of devices entering and leaving the perimeter, both equipment-related and operator-related.
  • Analysis of user behavior, in case of using for dissemination activities of information or training materials, perhaps during a company event.

For completeness, it is useful to know that, in addition to activities related to occupational safety, geofencing is also used in marketing, in this case proximity marketing and in business analysis. For example, it is used to calculate costs of any travel, or for smart home automation. Virtual home assistants, smart outlets, smart televisions and all the other increasingly popular home appliances that operate through Wi-Fi often fall into the category of technologies supported by geofencing. Even social media or search engines such as Google make constant use of geofencing: if they did not, many of the applications we use on a daily basis could not work or exist.

Geofencing: what it is, who can benefit from it and how to respect privacy

The main benefit of applying geofencing to corporate security measures is safeguarding integrity and lives of employees. An enterprise also has other aspects of its management to consider: – complying with the Law, requiring employers to take preventive measures in their workplaces; – proving, in the event of a claim, that someone acted beyond the limits of Law and thus enjoy the mitigation of criminal risk; – be able to benefit from the rate relief that applies to the company based on the relevant level of risk; – protect workers’ privacy. Geofencing, as well as all other technologies that pinpoint the location of users such as, for example, proximity marketing, is mandatorily opt-in throughout Europe. This means that the operator must unquestionably express his or her consent to the use of the technology for his or her own and others’ safety. If this data is traceable to a specific individual, its processing is governed by the GDPR. In addition, on October 11, 2018, the European Privacy Guarantor included an annex to the Provision that contains a list of different types of data processing that must undergo an impact assessment (Article 35 of the GDPR). The application of geofencing integrated with a control and security system, such as Smart Track’s Connected Worker, respects privacy because it works through: – Event-driven geolocation: meaning that the location of the worker will be sent only in the event of an emergency event, for example following a man-down detection or distress call (SOS). – Anonymous system: in case of an alarm, a notification is received without the name of the person in danger and without storing any sensitive data on the management platform. Solutions that do not refer to the personal data of the operators, relieve a lot of the entrepreneur who decides to protect his business and employees with geofencing. The data must be referenced to a specific individual. If the goal is to ensure the safety of workers in the workplace and the business itself, it is not always necessary to know the identity of personnel who are in danger: it will be enough to know that an operator is too close to an unsafe work area and promptly alarm them. At Smart Track, we responded by creating a solution: the WeTAG wearable devices.

Smart Track’s IIoT solution with geofencing technology

Our engineers have developed a proprietary IoT connected worker system. This solution is based on wearable devices operating with a sensor network and allowing direct communication via Wi-Fi, LAN or sim m2m, with a central server, where our proprietary patented algorithms are located. Connected Worker offers five major benefits that can help your business right away and protect your employees:

  1. Verify man-down condition, even in closed locations and in the absence of GPS signal. Feature allowing immediate and prompt response.
  2. Automatic management of evacuation plans, by knowing perfectly and in real time the exact number of workers within the company, those who have already successfully reached collection points, and easily identifying any missing people.
  3. Implement a man-vehicle anti-collision system. This solution makes it possible to avoid possible accidents during work activities in warehouses, factories and port areas due to collisions between operators or moving vehicles.
  4. Integrate the system with other security solutions already present in the company, such as access control to work areas or video surveillance.
  5. Sleep mode of devices down to a man-down or emergency condition so that your employees’ privacy is not violated and their safety is ensured.

Tomorrow’s industry

Industry 4.0 brings technology, automation and process optimization with it, but it also leads to a culture of work-and consequently workplace safety-that comes through worker awareness. Educating managers and operators on workplace risks, offering solutions to avoid them, and making them accessible and user-friendly for everyone, is of paramount relevance for any future company. To give a few examples, forklift operators in some companies must watch a few-second video reminding them of safety practices before they can start the machine. On construction sites, on the other hand, geofencing intervenes by alarming operators getting too close to dangerous areas, because there are, for instance, high voltage cables that have not yet been properly coated. In other companies, this technology is being used to provide new employees with all training materials for proper job training. With such precautions, workplace accidents can decrease by as much as 20 percent in a year. Handling an emergency accurately and promptly saves lives, saves many company resources, including financial resources and avoids prosecution. With our WeTAG wearable devices, you won’t have to worry about violating your employees’ privacy or having to enter into an agreement with labor unions. You can apply our WeTags and Connected Workers to your business. Contact us to find out how they can be integrated into your company’s security measures.