Cicadas Vs. Linemen: How Wireless Communications Technology Can Help Crews Prepare

Beginning in late May, linemen in parts of the East and Midwest will face an unusual problem: cicadas. Rising from the ground after 17 years, millions of these large insects make a sound like an alien horror movie. They will climb trees in large numbers and rub their wings together to create a tsunami of sounds designed to attract mates. Cicadas reach 90-100 decibels and are louder than a jackhammer, making communication between utility workers who have to work around the lovesick insects difficult.

Clear and reliable communication between team members is essential for any project. TheThis is especially true for utility workers where a lack of communication can lead to delays in restoring power, skipped maintenance, and serious injury to workers. The noise of the cicadas is an additional challenge for a construction site, where it is difficult for the workers to talk to each other anyway.

As with chainsaws, crews may need to wear hearing protection, making their radios difficult to hear. The radios are essential for speaking to physically distant team members who may be on the ground, in a bucket, or half a mile down the street. Some workers may be tempted to remove their hearing protection, if only temporarily, in order to hear their radios over ambient noise.

Fortunately, new technology can help. Wireless communication headsets such as those manufactured by Sena Industrial are available with integrated hearing protection in the form of hearing protection. The noise reduction ratings for headsets mounted on hard hats are 20 to 24 decibels. These devices allow workers to talk to each other while working safely.

The headsets have a number of differences from radios, the technology of which dates back to the 1970s. Radios use a low frequency FM band while headsets use the high frequency Bluetooth band around 2.4 GHz. The lower frequency gives radios a long range and makes them good at communicating around obstacles.

The downside is that the wireless technology is analog. Instead of the characteristic muffled sound of radios, wireless headsets have high-resolution digital sound and noise canceling. Clear tone can reduce misunderstandings and avoid repeating instructions.

In addition, the wireless technology is half-duplex, so only one person can speak at a time after pressing a button. The listener has to wait to answer. Sometimes this means that an employee only receives half of a message. In contrast, Bluetooth headsets are full duplex, so multiple people can talk and listen at the same time, which speeds up conversations. There is no need to press a button, so your hands can stay on the job. Hands-free operation improves worker productivity and increases safety by allowing one worker to immediately warn another of a hazard.

There are two different types of headsets available, which are defined by the long-range Bluetooth profile used: Bluetooth intercom or mesh intercom.

Bluetooth intercom headsets
While consumers are familiar with near-field bluetooth for phones and earbuds, the bluetooth intercom profile used for industrial purposes is wide-ranging and robust, covering 0.5-0.8 miles outdoors.

Setting up a Bluetooth intercom network is easy: just pair one wireless headset with another, usually limited to four devices in total. Unlike radios that do Using a popular public band, Bluetooth devices provide a level of privacy and security by being paired. Employees do not hear chatter from people outside their team and vice versa.

Mesh intercom headsets
Wireless mesh headsets, e.g. B. those with Sena’s proprietary Mesh intercom protocol are similar to Bluetooth headsets, except that the mesh topology uses headsets to route the signal to other nodes on the network. The network continuously polls devices and chooses the most efficient signal path.

A mesh system offers more range than a Bluetooth intercom system. For example, the range between two Sena Mesh devices outdoors is 0.7 miles, but as the devices relay the signal, the coverage area is expanded to cover a much larger area. The other benefit of a mesh system is the ability to connect an almost unlimited number of devices. This is helpful for large work teams doing vegetation management, installation, and construction.

Mesh networks are self-healing: if a team member leaves the coverage area, the headset automatically reconnects to the network when they return. No pairing is required.

Prepare crews for the invasion
Cicada broods are staggered so that different regions experience them in different years. That means many outdoor workers will encounter them at some point in their careers. Managers can prepare their crews by equipping them with noise-canceling wireless headsets. Whether the noise is caused by cicadas or more typical sources like saws, weather, and vehicles, employees can use wireless headsets to communicate easily and securely.