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The GPS emergency call has helped until now

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Anyone who scales electricity pylons or drives alone to the transformer station at night in the event of a power failure and rectifies a fault in the substation has previously already had a GPS emergency call device with them. Yet danger often lurks where you least expect it. In instances where field workers ring the doorbell because they have to turn off the electricity in a household, they usually encounter an understanding customer. However, there have also been cases where colleagues have been locked in the basement. With no chance of any cell phone reception.

Markus Eisenlohr, an engineer at Netze BW who heads the Mobility, Protection and Sensor Technology department, is aware of many such stories – after all, the system is also marketed externally by Netze BW - Service Division. He knows of food inspectors who have been detained in cold stores or marshals who have been held in apartments. In such cases, the GPS emergency call device has been able to raise the alarm and summon help for those affected.

NeWa is intelligent and practical

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The NeWa app represents an enhancement and upgrade of the GPS emergency call kit. It incorporates the emergency call function in the watch. Clearly, however, the earlier versions of the watch developed by Apple were not designed for such complex tasks – the processor and battery were simply not powerful enough. The requirements were only met with Series 6: At the end of 2021 / start of 2022, the team of Netze BW and EnBW experts – with the involvement of SAP – designed the NeWa app and equipped 50 technicians with the new wristwatch as part of the pilot phase.

The app monitors the situation and raises the alarm

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Like the GPS emergency call, the NeWa app also allows the wearer to make an emergency call directly or activate a “monitoring” time frame, which counts down automatically and triggers an alarm if employees do not respond. Markus Eisenlohr: “The technology plans ahead. On the watch, for example, I can set the function to indicate that I will log off again in 20 minutes! If I fail to log off after 20 minutes, however, the alarm is triggered and the corresponding chain of events is set in motion: A message is sent to the emergency call and service center and the rescue teams or police are alerted.”

But that’s not all: The first prototypes of the NeWa app will be equipped with Apple’s own fall detection function: If a fall is registered and the person does not move for about a minute, the watch also alerts the emergency call and service center. Mark Zimmermann, who is responsible for software development, says: “We have enhanced the fall detection function that is featured on all Apple Watches. In addition to the process initiated by Apple, our own control center is also informed about the condition of the colleague. And using our enhanced feature, we can detect spontaneous height differences, such those associated with falling from a ladder.”

Wherever danger potentially lurks, the NeWa app can help. The traffic monitoring services that have to deal with angry motorists. The manufacturer of elevator systems when the elevator gets stuck during testing. The app has a wide range of uses, says Eisenlohr.

Further features in the pipeline

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Meanwhile, the developers continue to work on the app. In the future, it should be possible for technicians to communicate with each other without visual contact via the app – even without an Internet connection. The app could also locate unconscious colleagues in a similar manner to avalanche beacons. Health and monitoring of vital signs, says Markus Eisenlohr, are “important aspects in the strategic development of the app.

The good thing about the NeWa app is that the life-saving emergency feature is generally not needed anyway.” For some people, however, it is a kind of life insurance. At the same time, it looks just like a simple wristwatch.

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+++ Information supplied by the grid operator Netze BW. +++