“By 2012, 80% of security guards in private security will be NFC-equipped,” says Michael Elliott of NFC-based remote worker management specialists Over-C, whose technology is already used by security staff at Marks & Spencer and at all London Overground stations.
Over-C has announced details of version 3 of its NFC-based remote worker management system, due for commercial launch in October. Designed to support a wide range of business sectors wherever staff work remotely — such as security staff, home healthcare visitors, cleaners, maintenance staff and others — Over-C works in a market where the use of NFC delivers several clear advantages over existing solutions.
In the security sector, for instance, the most widespread current solutions combine tags embedded at key locations with a dedicated tag reader used by security staff to log the fact that they have visited the location. While this records the fact that the worker has done his job, the information is only downloaded from the device at the end of a shift.
Using an NFC solution, on the other hand, real-time feedback becomes possible. This has two key advantages:
- For the employer, an alert can be created if a worker fails to log in to a touch point at the appointed time, enabling possible problems — such as a possible security breach or a missed visit to a recuperating patient — to be flagged up and investigated without delay.
- For the remote worker, it gives an improvement in their safety since the instant alert capability also flags up the fact that they may be in trouble. A diabetic who ran into difficulties whilst working at one very large Over-C equipped facility, for example, was able to be found in just ten minutes rather than the hours it could otherwise have taken. Colleagues were able to see where he had last logged in and use that information to narrow down the search.
The current version of the solution has had some early successes with customers in the security, healthcare and construction industries and there are already over one million tag reads taking place every month. Customers include Securitas, which has delivered a solution to Marks & Spencer that sees store security staff using Over-C to record thefts. STM Security Group, meanwhile, is using Over-C in every London Overground station and for monitoring staff safety on trains, and several security companies are also using Over-C at locations such as shopping centres and construction sites.
The new version of Over-C’s Mobile NFC Framework, called V3, is device independent, giving customers the option to choose their preferred NFC handset, and includes a series of new features that use the real-time nature of the technology to deliver additional benefits, such as lone worker monitoring, API integration with leading staff rostering and scheduling systems and exception reporting — allowing missed checks such as ‘the fire hydrant on level five has not been tested’ to be flagged up.
“Knowing what didn’t happen can often have more value than knowing what did,” explains Michael Elliott, the managing director of Over-C, who has been working on the development of NFC-based remote worker management solutions since 2000. Elliott filed his first NFC-related patent in 2002 and launched the first version of Over-C’s technology in 2006.
V3 also includes a dynamic messaging option that enables field workers to be sent instructions on what action to take, dependent on the information they report back when they touch a tag.
For instance, this aspect of the Over-C system could be used by workers checking the points (also known as switches or turnouts) on a railway line. Here, each time they check a set of points, a series of options for describing the status of the set is provided on the screen of their NFC phone. If they choose ‘points failed test’, for example, they are then sent back a pre-set instruction to ‘Take a photo. Contact engineering for further instructions’. Different messages, meanwhile, could also be automatically sent to management to record the fact that the points failed the inspection and ensure that the necessary repair work has been carried out.
The new version offers a free entry-level hosted solution for low volume users as well as tiered subscription packages for volume users.
“We’re offering the entry level edition free of charge because we’re committed to making a positive contribution to organisations that rely on remote workers, whether they’re domiciliary carers, cleaners or security guards. We can help them to work smarter and safer, and we want Over-C to be the natural choice for this kind of technology,” says Elliott. “By 2012, 80% of security guards in private security will be NFC-equipped.”
V3 launches in the UK on 26 October. The entry-level offering is due to go live in the first quarter of 2010 and launches in a number of territories, including all English-speaking nations, will take place during 2010.