Lifeguard on Duty

This Space Age personal monitoring device locates workers in distress.

GPS (Global Positioning System) technology seems to be increasingly present in our daily lives. For those of you who have only a vague notion of how it works, it's a system that provides accurate position information based on data transmitted from a 24-satellite constellation. This information, in effect, gives an address to any location in the world, an accomplishment that allows for innovative approaches to mapping, tracking, navigation, and even the formulation of precise time intervals.

Because GPS receivers have evolved to miniature proportions, this technology is more accessible and widespread, finding its way into all forms of transportation, construction equipment, and computers. One obvious application of this technology exists in the arena of safety and security: the ability to track and locate people and assets across the globe. Visao™ Systems Inc., a company that specializes in terrestrial and satellite network communication, has made profound inroads within this field, finessing GPS technology in a new personal monitoring system.

The LifeGuard™ II is a monitoring device worn by an individual that allows instantaneous communication in cases of emergency, even if that person is unconscious. The monitor relays GPS location information every two seconds to a base station that can then forward it to emergency responders in a matter of seconds. If a worker cannot manually send an alert, the device is activated automatically by lack of motion.

Preserving Life
The LifeGuard II offers an unprecedented level of security and safety to lone workers or individuals who encounter dangerous or life-threatening situations in remote areas, ports, or in-plant facilities. Debbie Stewart, vice president of Personal Monitoring Systems and Visao, said the new personal monitoring device resulted from the desire to meet customer needs for added safety. Visao Systems has been in the business of tracking and monitoring assets and vehicles throughout four decades, but the LifeGuard II allows it to go a step further. (See key features and benefits.)

David Alston, manager of marketing and development for Visao Systems and Teletouch (Visao's parent company), said that though GPS technology has been utilized extensively before now in terms of security monitoring, Visao is the first to take the technology to this level. "We're a pioneer in putting all the different technologies together for this solution . . . . Knowing exactly where situations are happening is really crucial today," he said.

The LifeGuard II personal monitoring device works in tandem with a few other components to comprise an effective communication system. The LifeGuard II monitor is worn or carried by the individual and is automatically activated by lack of motion (time span pre-set by user) or by pressing a panic button. The device then sends a wireless alert to the LifeGuard II Micro Receiver, located up to 1/4 mile away. The message is processed by the receiver, which is linked to the LG-II PDT Transceiver that transmits the alert data over specified networks.

Once the data are transmitted through the network to the processing center, GeoFleet™ Software displays a visual alert on the computer monitor and sounds an audible alarm that continues until acknowledged by the response team. According to Alston, this alert is impossible to ignore and takes precedence over anything else going on in the processing center. The individual's GPS coordinates are displayed on the screen to help responders pinpoint the exact location of distress. Optional medical information about the individual also can be communicated. Another feature of GeoFleet Software allows the alert to be simultaneously sent through e-mail, pagers, or cellphones to notify necessary personnel.

Staying the Course
"I see this as being really big in plant-type scenarios, and with people cutting back, there is more need for this," said Stewart, referring to LifeGuard II's potential for expanded security applications. She said contexts such as border patrol, land management, homeland security, or any situation where companies need to know the location of their employees would greatly benefit from this system.

LifeGuard II is expected to be released in early 2005. Alston and Stewart said Visao is already thinking about possible additions to the personal monitoring device that could come with a LifeGuard III system. Some of these additions might include emergency shutdown capabilities, temperature gauges, and built-in gas sensors that could take readings from the field and relay them across the network.

Pricing for the LifeGuard II Personal Monitoring System has not been finalized. Current costs of LifeGuard I, depending on how simply or elaborately a system is customized, can range from $3,600 to $5,000. There also are an initial activation cost and monthly airtime fee. For more information, contact or visit

This column appears in the January 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

Key Features

Key Benefits

This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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