The industrial hygiene community has witnessed exponential growth in the use of sensors, especially by individuals. Remote wireless sensors are now monitoring worker health, the environment, agriculture, work sites, disaster relief, and "smart" buildings and facilities.

Sensors hold great promise for empowering workers and improving risk-informed management decisions. But how will we validate and apply the rapidly evolving sensor technologies, some of which have not yet been invented or even imagined?
Our community can take practical steps to transform the incredible promise of sensors into credible industrial hygiene practice. The vision discussed in this article describes how NIOSH is combining an informatics-based mindset with the industrial hygiene decision-making framework (anticipate, recognize, evaluate, communicate, control, and confirm) to apply a comprehensive life-cycle approach to sensor development, validation, and application. Effective partnerships will help us engage the community, inform the interested, reward the responsive, and understand and incentivize the reluctant to develop and apply sensors wisely. AN INFORMATICS-BASED MINDSET In a world saturated with information and data, we need to determine not only what can be measured, but what should be measured. Industrial hygienists have a rich and successful history of applying direct-reading instruments in the laboratory and the field. We also know the challenges of interpreting and converting “numbers” from such instruments into defensible and actionable decisions.
The concept of “informatics” can help us organize how we seek, create, curate, analyze, and apply modern information. Recent work described in The Nanoinformatics 2020 Roadmap, a publication of the National Nanomanufacturing Network, has resulted in a working definition of informatics that we have expanded and adopted for our purposes. We define sensor informatics as the science and practice of determining which information is relevant to meeting our measurement objectives; and then developing and implementing effective mechanisms for collecting, validating, storing, sharing, analyzing, modeling, and applying the information; confirming that appropriate decisions were made and that desired mission outcomes were achieved as a result of that information; and finally conveying experience to the broader community, contributing to generalized knowledge, and updating standards and training. Successful missions apply all of the steps in the informatics process. THE IH DECISION-MAKING FRAMEWORK Our traditional industrial hygiene decision-making framework provides a robust approach to addressing any analytical problem. To determine sensible use of sensors, we can: • anticipate and recognize specific situations where real-time monitoring might contribute to improved assessment of exposures, hazards, and resulting risks • evaluate and communicate options for the development, validation, and use of methods, including considerations for the temporal and spatial deployment of monitors and the collection, quality assurance, and interpretation of associated data • control and confirm the effective implementation of all aspects of the sensor life cycle to meet critical objectives from research to routine practice and regulatory compliance
BY MARK D. HOOVER AND D. GAYLE DEBORD
Sensors for Safety, Health, Well-being, and Productivity
Turning Numbers into Knowledge