Dr.Benjamin W. Watson,
Innovation Leader






We know that successful innovation relies on the interplay between capability and needs, leading to the development of solutions that meet or exceed customers’ expectations in new ways. And, when it comes to safety, those expectations are, understandably, very high.

We can innovate in a combination of ways – through the improved performance of an existing solution into an existing application; new customer outcomes through new technologies, or perhaps driving operational efficiencies while maintaining business as usual.

New ways of operating must also be in scope, from business models to workflows that can be enabled through connected digital solutions.

We can all show leadership by setting high expectations for safety and for each other, as Kevin Robinson [Chief Operating Officer, Safer Highways] recently set out with his challenge to: “…consider how innovation and technology will drive safety forward and how we all, as both innovators and contractors have a moral responsibility to drive each other forward with aiming to achieve this”.

As part of this challenge, we need to be mindful of the fact that no single person or organisation innovate in a vacuum, which is why creative collaboration is so important, especially with connected solutions, relying on multipart systems operating with one other to achieve safety goals.

In this short introduction we explore the importance of collaboration and high expectations while acknowledging the need to create space to innovate in a combination of ways with outcomes ranging from breakthrough innovation to the maintenance of core business.


Creating a space to innovate

Sometimes the biggest challenge can be how to move beyond the expected ‘next step’, or incremental innovation, to see a situation from a new perspective or hybridising technologies by bringing them together in new ways.

Building out your own portfolio of innovation initiatives can support this goal, to keep a regular rhythm of diverse initiatives, comprising the maintenance of core business, to breakthrough innovation and adapting to external changes or shifts that you might not ordinarily expect to see. Such initiatives can be described as levels of innovation or innovation classes. Calling these out as separate but related activities provide a basis to ensure the right organisational structures are then in place, to bring innovation to life.

At 3M we encourage employees to explore new opportunities for innovation through our ’15 per cent culture’. This dates back to the 1950s, and it allows employees to use up to 15 per cent of their time to work on projects that do not require management approval or be limited to the scope of their current responsibilities.

This is one of many approaches that helps 3Mers find uncommon connections, to build new solutions and work even more closely with customers, helping them to become early adopters of new solutions and resolving some of their biggest challenges.


Workplace safety

Without doubt, the increased digital solutions we can expect to see over the coming months and years will rapidly change the face of safety. Our goals should be ambitious, knowing how advances in technology can help us to achieve so much.

Through the 3M Connected Safety business, we’ve developed an IoT (Internet of Things) platform, designed to connect workers, workplaces and equipment, for increased worker safety, compliance workflow and process automation.  The IoT platform has two clearly defined interrelated areas, for health safety and compliance, and connected worker safety solutions. We believe that connected workers can help companies be proactive in their approach to safety, enabling them to resolve potential issues before they occur and helping workers and safety managers gain new insights into current Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) conditions, their historical usage and asset management.

With Inspection and Asset Management Systems, organisations can now handle workplace safety challenges and streamline the documentation of workflows and safety-related data in ways that were not previously possible.


Roadway safety

Nearly all new vehicles on the road are equipped with some form of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), including lane departure warning (LDW) and lane keeping systems (LKS). In fact, the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required ADAS rear visibility technology on all vehicles sold in the US weighing less than 10,000 lbs. since May 2018, and both the European Union and the United States will require all vehicles to have autonomous emergency-braking systems and forward-collision warning systems by 2020.

The advancement of ADAS technologies represents a significant step towards the production of fully connected and automated vehicles (CAVs), with both autonomous vehicles and human drivers sharing the roads in several states and international cities, including California, Michigan, Paris, London and Beijing, with some estimates forecasting that 8 million self-driving vehicles will be sold annually by 2025.

There are numerous anticipated benefits of cars equipped with ADAS and CAVs, including fewer accidents, more free time and improved mobility. But they also present challenges when you’re planning the roadways of the present and the future.

3M has been connecting infrastructure and roadway vehicles through new materials, vertical and horizontal signage as part of the 3M Connected Roads programme, to enhance roadway safety for human drivers, vehicles equipped with ADAS, and the driverless vehicles of the future.

It’s important to understand how these vehicles will perceive and interpret their surroundings. Some might assume that the primary navigation method will utilise GPS and High Definition mapping tools. While these provide a powerful combination of data, they can be unreliable in certain conditions and may not deliver the precision or real-time data you need to ensure roadway safety. Currently, both ADAS and CAVs rely on machine vision for most driving functions. For machine vision to be safe and effective, your roads will require infrastructure such as highly detectable pavement markings and signage. Meanwhile, human drivers will continue to benefit from an infrastructure that is easy to interpret and can be seen in a range of driving conditions.

What is highly evident for the future of workplace safety and transportation safety is the need for collaboration between stakeholders such as roadway users, government transport departments, roadway integrators, contractors and automotive manufacturers. We need to remember that there is no one single group or community that can resolve the safety challenges and reach the safety expectations set for connected vehicles. Collaboration is key.


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