Product Review – Blackline Safety’s G7
Is the world’s first smart personal gas detector about to revolutionise the world of gas detection?
The Blackline G7 delivers:
- 3G and satellite connectivity
- Two-way voice communication
- Live data gathering and mapping
When Steve Jobs was asked why he thought Apple could be successful in the very competitive mobile phone market, he answered: “because we are a software company and all our competitors are hardware manufacturers!” It took some time for us to realise just how profound that statement was, but today nobody doubts his foresight. By creating software applications (Apps), Apple quickly changed a simple call and text device into a gateway to everything. The iPhone applications allowed users to package up and access information in a simple, fast, adjustable way. Starting a communication revolution and making the mobile phone a necessity for everyday life.
But how is this relevant to gas detectors and specifically the Blackline G7?
Well, in today’s compliance focused world, gas testers and their employers see data as the key ingredient to collect, store and process. For example:
- Who’s– doing the testing?
- What– are they testing for?
- Where– are they sampling?
- When – and how often?
- How – are they recording the results?
- Which – workers are being exposed to hazardous substances?
- Are my gas detectors fit for purpose?
Employers, insurance companies and safety professionals need to know their workers are working safely. And workers are interested in the potential ill effects from long-term exposures to hazardous substances. So, the gathering of detector data and more importantly the ability to packaging it up in an efficient, understandable format has become the new focal point of the industry.
Now – as this is a poduct review of the Blackline safety G7, we are not going to dwell on the pros and cons of data gathering and processing, we’ll leave that for another day. But we do need to set the scene for the Blackline G7, because the G7 is more than a personal gas detector. You see – traditional gas detectors haven’t changed for years, they are simply a data-logging alarm box fitted with gas sensors. The G7 on the other hand has changed all this by amalgamating both smartphone and gas detection technology seamlessly into one device. As a result, Blackline safety have created a platform with the potential to revolutionise the industry and change the way gas testers think for ever.
So, is the G7 the trail blazer we have been looking for?
Blackline Safety point out the G7 functions both as a lone worker tool and gas detector by providing live data to their monitoring station in Calgary. If the instrument detects danger, or the user manually trigger an alarm, a call centre operator is on hand to react to the incident following an agreed response with the G7’s owner. The emergency response often involves speaking to the G7’s wearer directly through the gas detector, (not by phone or radio) – as it supports voice communication. And if there is no response, the alert can be escalated to include calling first responders. All this makes the G7 very different and versatile, but could there be more lurking behind this novel device’s design?
Product Review Blackline Safety G7c
As always, “first impressions mean so much to us consumers!” And the G7 certainly has a quality, high-tech feel. Its sleek black design and striking red emergency latch provides a modern facade to a slim, light weight casing.
Although some may initially think it resembles a men’s rotary razor, that feeling quickly disappears when you turn it on and watch it light up. The rubberised casing and positive power and navigation buttons are reassuringly tactile. There is one button for on and off – which we think users will like, and 3 navigation buttons to access features, menus and re-set alarms.
The instrument’s modular design supports a selection of customisable and field-replaceable gas sensor cartridges. The sensor modules come in two formats – single or quad-gas, and you have a range of gas sensors to choose from including: hydrogen sulphide, oxygen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ammonia, flammables and VOC’s, with more reported to be on the way.
Blackline have structured the supply of their devices with an initial up-front purchase of the base unit and a sensor leasing scheme. The Blackline gas sensor-as-a-service replacement program (as it’s called) means – should a sensor fail, you will be sent a replacement under warranty in the post the next day. Providing an almost continuous up time.
Gas readings, upcoming bump tests and calibration reminders, employee check-in requests and text messages are just a few of the features easily accessible through G7c’s LCD screen. The graphical display is readable in sunlight and backlit for low light conditions. Simple displays and intuitive menus are easily navigable for straightforward use. The integrated SOS latch pull feature connects workers with monitoring personnel instantly, while the latch push button allows for easy check-ins and alert management.
What Makes the G7 So different?
So, the primary breakthrough with the G7 is the inbuilt communication capability enabling continual remote monitoring and data collection. The G7c using G3 cellular connectivity and the G7x using satellite, deliver comprehensive gas detection and safety incident coverage for the diverse work environments faced by remote workers every day. Just like a smart phone, the G7 sends real-time sensor and alarm data to a monitoring station, while an “App” displays the same information simultaneously on a web-based platform – accessible by the owner or whoever they wish to see it. Not only are you able to see live and historic gas concentrations, but the inbuilt GPS functionality allows you to see the same information overlaid on google maps.
So immediately I hear some of you saying fantastic, “just what we have been looking for!”
- live data monitoring and incident reporting!
- GPS tracking!
- Automated and seamless data uploading!
- 24-hour remote monitoring and emergency response!
- Near misses automatically flagged up and logged!
But others, including many of Blackline’s competitors will be thinking, “really, do we actually need all this instant communication and connectivity, surely it’s just a gimmick?” “And what if manufacturing and communication standards change in the future, will all the development be cost effective?”
So, who’s right – Is the future of portable gas detectors going to be an internet connected one or not?”
Well from our perspective, the question was answered by Steve Jobs many years ago. The I-Mac, I-Pod, I-Phone, I-watch and Apple TV all testify to the fact, internet connected devices are now the norm. So, an equivalent I-Gas Detector is no more radical than our internet connected radios, clocks, door locks, key trackers, gas meters or printers. Smart devices my friends are the norm, smart gas testers on the other hand are a rarity! And the sooner the industry realises the new generation of gas testers will demand smart gas detectors the better it will be for them. So, the big question has to be something different and it’s this. “Will customers be prepared to pay the extra required to operate smart gas detectors?”
Smart or Connected?
While Blackline have gone fully smart with the G7, their competitors have mostly chosen to go down the connected route. Preferring to ask their customers to connect to a third-party device such as an ATEX smart phone in order to relay information to a “cloud based” data management site. Such systems have no GPS, live tracking and monitoring capabilities. Most of them charge for the service and rely on the users to manage the data collection, storage and interpretation.
In the future we will be discussing these in more detail, but for the time being we’ll leave you to investigate the options and decide which you think is the best – Smart or Connected? (And please -feel free to let us know in the comments box below which one works best for you?)
Currently a G7c quad gas in the UK will cost you approximately £355 to purchase with an ongoing annual running fee of between £180 to £492 per year. So, comparing this with the opposition and allowing for integrated smart technology, the prices are very competitive.
How much is a connected gas detector worth to you?
For many small organisations with simple low risk compliance applications, it’s unlikely the G7 will be their first choice. But for organisations where the gathering and processing of data is important, the G7 will be difficult to ignore. For example:
- If you are a large utility with many lone or remote workers, the continuous live data feeds will be extremely valuable. The ability to use one worker instead of two means half the cost.
- For gas utility workers, checking domestic properties for gas escapes. The proven data trail of who, where and when gas testing was undertaken, coupled with the automated storage of minute by minute results, provides a great compliance tool that’s invaluable in the event of an incident. The delivery of live data to a supervisor could also be helpful when looking for escapes that are difficult to find. Having someone else review the gas survey might enable them to advise you on where to look next.
- For refineries, chemical plants and other large commercial sites, the ability to see gas concentration maps produced as the workers walk around the site, facilitates improved leakage detection, dynamic hazard analysis and influence the design of fixed gas detector installations.
- The G7 also has the ability to replace all the sentinel devices you have ever purchased and these do not come cheap as you know! By using the live data produced by the wearers and strategically positioned static G7’s, a live gas detection grid system can be simply established. Couple this with live data monitoring and you have a network capable of replacing or supplementing any fixed system. Such applications are ideal for shutdowns, planned maintenance and emergencies.
We are sure you can think of many more – feel free to let us have your experiences as you generate them.
But possible the most valuable aspect of the G7 is something less obvious.
And it’s to do with fleet management. You see the problem every large organisation has, is knowing:
- Who is using a specific gas detector, is it the one they were originally issued with?
- Is it in calibration?
- Where are the calibration records?
- Has it been function checked?
- Where are the function check records?
- Where is the instrument when we can’t find it?
- How do we recall it for servicing?
- How do we update the instrument settings when the standards change?
- Where are the service and repair records?
- How do I check the instrument is being used correctly?
“Uh – Fleet management!” For years, employers with large gas detector fleets have asked manufacturers to devise a way of providing a simple and efficient way of managing their instruments. And the biggest problem is knowing who is using a given gas detector at any one time. With the G7 the answer is simple – you call them up and ask!
Using the Blackline web porthole (Blackline Live™), all the other issues can be solved too. Live data analysis, simple data searches and instrument locations are readily accessible. A free to use, web-based information platform makes fleet management simple. Just as a mobile phone collects data continually so does the G7. As Steve Jobs recognised, build the right “App” and all that information can be packaged and accessed simply.
If someone takes your instrument, you simple look up its location up and go and collect it.
If the settings need changing – you do in online through the web porthole. No need to recall the device into the workshop.
If it’s not been function checked – you speak to the user and ask them to do it.
If it needs servicing…. I’m sure you get the idea!
Users can build their own management systems simply and effectively at little to no cost.
So, are there any negatives?
There are as few data protection issues that need to be ironed out, but these are not insurmountable and there are the obvious implications of how to you deal with connectivity issues. Alternative safety protocols are needed in the event of a 3G or satellite link being lost. The sensor choice too is limited until the full range becomes available. Here at @gt we emphasis a lot the importance of users selecting the right sensors and check responses and cross sensitivities. It’s going to take some time for Blackline to get a full range of sensors that matches their competitors. But if you just need to detect the gases currently available through their range – then this shouldn’t be an issue.
But the most significant reservation some will have is linked to the belief that no one likes to be tracked. Employers may love the idea, but gas testers are not so enthusiastic. But the truth is, today most of us carry smart phones, and as a result we are already being tracked continually. The difference is – most of us are unaware it’s happening or are less concerned as we don’t see the data.
And this brings us to our final important point concerning the G7 and smart gas detectors in general. Tracking and monitoring a gas tester’s every move is unfair unless you provide equally smart levels of training, because “You can own the SMARTEST gas detector in the world, but unless you know how to select the right sensors and use the instrument correctly, it’s of no value!”
Smart devices need smart training.
You can train a monkey to turn on a gas detector and react if the alarm goes off. (Not wanting to be rude to monkeys). But if you fail to train your gas testers on how to determine which gases test for, how to select the right sensors, where and when to take samples, how often to make measurements etc, etc. All you are doing is recording your mistakes for someone to use against you in the future. Therefore, Smart Devices need Smart Training.
Smart training takes all the traditional requirements found in Authorised Gas Tester training courses based on OPITO, NFPA Certificated Marine Chemists (CMC) and EN 60079-29-2:2015 and applies smart technology to them. The result is a modern take on a very traditional set of courses. Smart Training brings the Authorised Gas Tester into the 21st Century – where seamless live data monitoring, GPS tracking, automated data uploading, 24-hour remote monitoring are the norm. But more importantly the gas tester has the confidence in their ability to openly share what they are doing with others. “It would be unfair to issue a smart device without providing equally smart levels of training.”
If you would like to know more about our Smart Training Courses feel free to contact us.
So – should you buy one?
Well we have to say the Blackline Safety G7 is very impressive and has to be on your list of instruments to consider. Its price tag does put it at the higher end of the market, but the gas sensor replacement program, lone worker features and integrated smart technology more than makes up for this. And if you are looking for a truly smart device, the G7 is currently your only option.
It’s true – Smart and Connected gas detector technology can be a bit gimmicky and manufacturers are generally struggling to build simple “Apps” to meet user’s needs. But for large fleet owners and those wanting to see live data. We seriously suggest reviewing the G7’s web porthole (Blackline Live™) as it has the potential to redefine the way you collect, store and review data, while simultaneously providing a seamless instrument management system.
In such a competitive market, the G7 stands out as being different and although new, the company’s tried and tested background provides confidence in its capabilities. We always recommend researching the sensor properties before purchasing just to ensure they meet your requirements (note: sensor lifetimes, responses and cross sensitivities should always be checked). And watch this space for user feedback. Because as we always say – you readers are the best testers!
The Editor – Arobase Gas Testing © 2018 Arobase Gas testing
Quality @@@@@ Ease of use @@@@@ Price@@@@@ Reliability @@@@@
Manufacturer: Blackline Safety
Size & Weight
- G7 with Standard Cartridge – Size: 64 mm x 124 mm x 27 mm (2.52” x 4.88” x 1.06”) Weight: 162 g (5.7 oz)
- G7 with Single-gas Cartridge – Size: 64 mm x 128 mm x 27 mm (2.52” x 5.04” x 1.06”) Weight: 167 g (5.9 oz)
- G7 with Quad-gas Cartridge – Size: 66 mm x 150 mm x 27 mm (2.52” x 5.91” x 1.06”) Weight: 192 g (6.8 oz)
Single-gas and Quad-gas Sensor Options
- H2S, LEL, CO, O2, CO2, NH3 H2
- Sensor type: Electrochemical Lowest detection limit: 0.5 ppm Upper detection limit: 100 ppm Resolution: 0.1 ppm
- LEL combustible – Sensor type: Infrared – Lowest detection limit: ±4 %LEL Upper detection limit: 100 %LEL Resolution: 1 %LEL
- 168 by 144 pixel graphical, high contrast, liquid crystal display with front lighting, menu system driven by a three-button keypad, power button (on/off), check-in button (check-in/silent emergency), emergency latch (send emergency alert)
- Green SureSafe® light: Blinking (powered), continuous (connected)
Yellow top and front lights: Personal pending alarm and personal warning alarm
Red top and front lights: Remote alert communicated Blue LiveResponseTM top and front lights: Monitoring team confirmation that alert has been acknowledged Personal alarm Indicators: speaker, LEDs and vibration motor
Speaker sound pressure level: ~90 dB @ 10 cm
(~90 dB @3.94”)
Voice calling: Speakerphone and phone modes
(G7c model only)
G7c Wireless Radio
- Wireless coverage: ~200 countries
- North America: 2G/3G radio, GSM 850 MHz, PCS 1900 MHz, 3G UMTS bands 2, 5 and 6
- International: 2G/3G radio, E-GSM 900 MHz, DSC 1800 MHz, 3G UMTS bands 1 and 8
- Antenna: Internal dual-band
Power & Battery
- Rechargeable Li-ion battery: 1250 mAh Li-ion Battery Life: 18 hours continuous operation at 20° C (68° F) Charge time: 4 hours
- Storage temperature: -30°C to 75°C (-22°F to 167°F) Operating temperature: -20°C to 55°C (-4°F to 131°F) Charging temperature: 0°C to 45°C (32°F to 113°F) Ingress Protection: IP67
- SAR, RoHS, CE, RCM
FCC ID: XPY1CGM5NNN | IC ID: 8595A-1CGM5NNN Canada and USA: Class I Division 1 Gr A,B,C,D T4; Class I Zone 0 AEx ia IIC T4; Ex ia IIC T4 Ga
IECEx: Ex ia IIC T4 Ga
ATEX: Ex ia IIC T4 Ga
- G7: two years
- Cartridges: Lifetime
- G7 complete plan: three years
Blackline Live Web Application
- Cloud-hosted safety monitoring web application is highly customizable for every customer requirement. Includes live map, employee address book, user roles, alert management, device configurations, alert setups and reporting.