An office-based job is a rarity for lots of industries such as construction, manufacturing and healthcare.

In fact, many positions within those sectors require staff to work alone and in challenging environments.

staysafe 1 techies

This is where StaySafe comes in.

Picking up the 'Ultimate App' award at the techies this year, StaySafe is a mobile application designed to monitor employees that work and travel alone or in remote locations.

"The business, like a lot of others, was originally all about solving a problem," StaySafe CEO Don Cameron tells Techworld.

"Graham Mills, the founder of StaySafe, ran a surveying company, so you'd have a master surveyor with his optical equipment at one end and normally an apprentice at the other end holding a pole. And you would see them beside roads, in fields for example.

"You always had guys going out in pairs. And if anything happened to one, the other would look out for them. But the business was changing, there was new technology out there like laser scanning and automation, which means they can be operated by one person.

"So, his problem was that he now had guys going out on their own, to either the side of the road or a building site or the middle of field, and they were now carrying £30,000 worth of stuff on their shoulders.

"So he thought, 'what could I do to look after them?' And that's really where the business started," Cameron adds.

How does the StaySafe app work?

The app itself is packed with safety features including timed sessions, a panic button, employee check-ins and a 'man down' feature.

If you're a lone working in quite a physical job, or you work in quite challenging conditions, StaySafe has motion detectors which can alert your employees of any trips, slips or falls you may have during your working day.

"So, if you are a field service engineer that has a day to do a whole series of tasks and your employer just wants to know that you're safe during the day. You'd start a 'working session' the moment you leave the house, or whenever your working days starts. "From that moment, you're being tracked centrally," explains Cameron.

"You can set check-in intervals on your phone, which might be every hour, every half hour, every two hours, depending on the risk environment. And you can press a panic button on the phone in multiple ways, so from the app, by doing multiple presses on the power button, or using a Bluetooth button a wristband. And the latter two avoid the lock screen problem you get on some phones.

"So, basically, while they're out at work, if they have a problem and they know about it, they can press the panic button or the Bluetooth button. If, however, they're unconscious lying in a basement cause they cracked their head on a pipe or whatever, they will, almost by definition, fail to check-in, so an automatic alarm will go then," Says Cameron.

How are employers using StaySafe? 

It's likely that companies that hire lone workers are already using some sort of monitoring protocols, whether it be full-tracking hardware or something as simple as calling to check in with head office at set times during the day.

According to Cameron, the majority of available trackers came as dedicated devices, usually requiring charging at night and were quite expensive. Not to mention, one extra thing for an employee to remember to pick up on their way to work in the morning. 

And seeing as StaySafe is an app on your smartphone, it can't be forgotten about as you're always going to take your phone with you to work. 

StaySafe works across 35 countries, with some major companies including Siemens, Erickson and Honeywell on its books.

"We've got a whole variety of people in the housing field, people in the social care industry, like Bernardo's or St. John's Ambulance," Cameron says.

"You know, a huge number of different sectors across a wide number of industries. And it's driven because it's very easy to use. It's always with you. And it's flexible to use. And that's generally why people chose it."

What about areas of low signal?

The obvious challenge for a mobile app that will frequently be used in remote locations is signal. Even in built-up areas, mobile phone signal is an issue.

Recognising this drawback, StaySafe set out to combat this issue. 

"As you know, you can get no signal in the centre of London, never mind anywhere else. Certainly, in some of the wilder parts of the world, you don't get it. So the app does some very clever stuff, so when it has no signal at all, it will still trigger alarms," says Cameron.

"For example, if I'm an FM (facility management) engineer and I've gone into a sub-basement in London and I've failed to check in, the alarm will get triggered and it will know where I was last spotted, probably just outside the building somewhere. So that kind of functionality will work with absolutely no signal.

"Where you've got a very poor signal, the app will revert to, rather than was signalling over the cellular connection or wireless, it will signal using SMS. So it will operate in areas where you couldn't even carry out a sensible voice conversation. It'll signal a panic or a failure to check-in or whatever it is over SMS. We think that gives us about 16 percent more geographic coverage than just relying on cellular data," he explains.

What's next for StaySafe?

With high profile clients on the books and a steady expansion into 35 countries, according to Cameron, the next step is wearables. 

"With wearables, as they're developing, they allow you to monitor different things on the person. So you could be picking up a heart attack as it happens, or a stroke. Or perhaps somebody's heart rate has just gone through the roof, possibly cause they literally have gone through the roof. So, I think that there are some exciting things happening in wearables, generally, and we will leverage ourselves to build them into the solution," Cameron explains.

Another area of interest for the firm is satellite technologies. Cameron believes that efficiency in this area will result in better cellular coverage across the UK. 

"In particular, the reduction in cost of this will mean, for people in really remote areas who're out of cellular coverage for a long time, will have solutions, which will be a much more sensible fit, says Cameron.

"So today we can offer a satellite device, which will link through to the hub and provide a lot of the same functionalities. But it's quite expensive, so people tend not to buy it. But I think the cost of those is dropping. So I think there are some exciting things in that," he adds.