Engidi at the Web Summit: Smart SME pioneers new era in industrial safety
Smart safety helmets that gather data on the condition and geo-position of construction workers onsite could save lives. The Enterprise Europe Network has played a critical role in bringing this innovation - developed by Spanish start-up Engidi - to a global audience.
The spark of inspiration came over 10 years ago, when the company’s future COO Ignacio Massana discovered during a construction internship that onsite work was more dangerous than his university course had led him to believe. There was no means of gathering information about the condition of workers, or even where they were on site at a given time, limiting the ability of supervisors to prevent accidents and react rapidly to events.
Massana saw that the potential market for an innovation that improves workplace safety was huge. Some 35 million workers in Europe are required to wear protective helmets in areas such as construction, mining and forestry. These workplaces can also be dangerous: the construction sector alone is responsible for one fifth of all fatal accidents at work.
“It was only with the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) technology that real-time monitoring of workers’ health and wellbeing became possible”, he says. “At Engidi we were able to develop a device that is wearable, and that collects data without the worker having to do anything. There is also a rescue button that a worker can press if they witness an accident; geolocating the worker and transmitting the information in real time.”
The company has so far focused on selling Proof of Concepts (POCs) to companies, which allows them to pilot test the technology themselves. For example, these pilot runs also allow Engidi to collect valuable data that shows behavioural patterns on when and where accidents in the workplace are likely to happen. “This is the reason we are not selling our devices on the open market just yet”, says Massana. “The data gathered will help us to map out dangerous onsite areas to companies and improve our device.”
For an SME with currently six employees – and a one-man office in Santiago, Chile – convincing major construction companies to listen to them can be a challenge. “Visibility for us is very important,” says Massana. “It is difficult to make contact with big companies and then find exactly the right person to speak with.”
Cooperation with the Enterprise Europe Network has brought significant benefits in this regard. Network partner ACCIÓ– the agency responsible for promoting entrepreneurship and SMEs in Catalonia – invited Engidi to attend various summits and conferences, including a ground-breaking IoT event in Lyon, France in March 2017. There they met Nokia, and as a result were selected to be part of the Nokia Innovation Platform as the first and only Spanish start-up. “This collaboration has really increased our credibility,” says Massana.
Engidi was also invited to take part in an ACCIÓ-organised international mission to Chile, where they had the opportunity to meet industrial companies. This led the company to open a sales office in the capital Santiago, with a view to entering the Latin American market.
Engidi has signed three POCs to date and is looking to complete another 15 to 20 by next year. Each POC pilot project involves the active use of around 10 to 20 devices; the first will begin in November 2018. Interest in the technology has so far been expressed in Chile and Australia, where Engidi is in touch with major mining companies.
According to the latest data from the Enterprise Europe Network – based on survey data from businesses using the Network's services in Spain – in the coming year, 61% of SMEs who internationalise expect to increase their turnover, 36% expect to create jobs and 54% expect to increase their market share.
The Enterprise Europe Network is the world’s largest support network for small and medium-sized businesses with international ambitions.