Machine Safety: Can hand held devices play a role?

Wireless hand held devices (smart phones, tablets, pads, etc.), common in daily life, are emerging on the shop floor. Can they improve machine safety?


Hand held devices (smart phones, tablets, pads, etc.) are common place for almost everyone in day-to-day life. We’re even beginning to see these wireless devices on the shop floor. Can they play a role in machine safety?

What are you beginning to see where you work? Are you spotting devices like Nexus pads, tablets, Apple iPads and iPhones, Google Android devices, RIM Blackberry smartphones, and more? Aside from cell phone features, what are they doing?

Consumer-grade smartphones and tablet computers are fast becoming commonplace extensions of industrial networks, permitting process monitoring and, even (gasp!) process control. Control Engineering

I’ve seen them displaying machine drawings on the factory floor right beside the machine. This helps technicians communicate directly with engineering offices to quickly diagnose a downtime issue to quickly bring the machine back into operation. I’ve also seen applications where a technician communicates directly with an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) halfway around the world while standing a few feet from the machine and looking at the machine drawings or live operating metrics. This type of timely and accurate communication is priceless when significant cost savings are waiting in the wings.

I’ve also seen applications where live dashboard tools are displayed highlighting one machine that’s laboring behind other similar machines. This helps to pinpoint critical pinch points in the production process that might limit overall output. This enables manufacturers to target their focus and fine tune their operations. Notice that so far I’ve not mentioned anything that directly has to do with machine safety.

At this point in time I believe that these devices will not have a direct role in machine safety because they are not compliant with regulations and standards like IEC 61508 or NFPA 79 for example. Is this how you see it as well? Firmware and software based devices intended for safety-related functions have very strict regulations for design, build and testing compliance. However, it’s my opinion that at the rate innovative technology is advancing it won’t be long until we might find general purpose hand held devices performing some safety-related functions.   


J.B. Titus, CFSE

Has this presented you with any new perspectives? Have you seen wireless commercial devices used in machine safety or related support roles? Should they? Add your comments or thoughts to the discussion by submitting your ideas, experiences, and challenges in the comments section below.


Related articles:

Machine Safety and Wireless Devices

How to choose wireless technology for industrial applications

Cableless (Wireless) Operator Panel Applications

Machine Safety – Cableless vs Wireless

iQagent for Holistic Data Display & Machine Optimization


Contact: for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.

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