Unlocking Safety: RFID vs. Computer Vision on Worksites

More businesses are turning to modern technology to enhance safety worksites. From isolated mines, warehouses to urban civil construction sites. A key requirement for most include a safe working proximity to heavy plant equipment. For this, two solutions are commonly utilised: RFID hardware and Artificial Intelligence cameras. One has been around since the 1940s and the other sounds like a by-product of the Terminator’s ominous Skynet. We’ll discuss the advantages of both and debunk the latter (for concerned fans of the movie franchise). 


RFID Hardware:

Let’s start with the acronym. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. Objects can be embedded with data, readable by radio frequency. Depending on the reader, these objects can be detected wirelessly without direct line of sight. You’ve most likely encountered this technology in everyday life already. Using a key fob to enter a building, an automated toll on a highway or opening a garage door remotely. All activities require radio waves to transmit and identify objects. In the context of pedestrian detection, wearable RFID tags or vests are worn with readers fitted to plant equipment. When a person breaches the low frequency field emitted by the reader, the RFID equipment is detected and an alert to the operator is triggered. 


Advantages of RFID Safety Technology:

There are a few advantages to deploying RFID on your worksite:

  • – RFID doesn’t require direct line of sight to be detected. This allows the reader to detect personnel even if the operator has not seen them. 
  • – Operators are instantly alerted if personnel are too close to a machine.
  • – Generally requires a lesser investment.


Computer Vision Cameras:

Computer vision (or sometimes referred to as machine vision) is a form of artificial intelligence that enables a computer to identify and understand visual stimuli (such as people), make sense of what they see and take action. The idea is for the technology to replicate the human eye and brain. These computers are pre-programmed or “trained” to recognise humans through deep learning. However, unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger, this AI-enabled technology is designed to detect humans and protect them from entering a dangerous proximity to machines. In the application of workplace safety, the technology can be incorporated into a camera. The accessibility of AI in recent years has seen an increase in pedestrian detection systems (PDS) utilising computer vision. Another sign of the shift in preference is Tier 1 miners such as BHP stipulating from late 2023 that all mobile equipment on their WA sites be fitted with AI-powered PDS that don’t rely on additional wearable hardware.


Advantages of Computer Vision Safety Technology:

There are a number of advantages for safety managers (or disadvantages for cybernetic assassins) implementing AI-powered PDS:

  • – PDS harnessing computer vision has the ability to detect all humans on a worksite, without the need for wearable hardware. 
  • – Real-time alerts are generated when a human enters a predefined exclusion zone. Some products have the ability to generate live, visual feed from the AI camera itself. 
  • – Ability to provide 360 degree visibility and detection for large vehicles such as excavators.


Comparing The Two:

Pedestrian detection systems are just one type of engineering control. Ultimately, safety managers, operators and personnel should determine the specific site requirements and ensure processes are followed. That being said, if you are still undecided between the two, the following are some final thoughts: 

  • – RFID is still impacted by human error. Personnel that forget to wear tags/vests or site visitors that aren’t equipped with them are at risk of injury. AI-powered cameras can detect humans at all times without a reliance on other technology. 
  • – For high traffic worksites like warehouses, the location of RFID breaches won’t be provided to the operator which can be confusing. 

Interested in a AI-powered PDS that’s a preferred safety supplier to BHP and used by multinational civil construction companies? Then check out Proxicam.