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What you need to know before buying an Intrinsically Safe Smartphone

In an age where smartphones are ubiquitous, their utility extends far beyond typical everyday use. When used in industrial areas such as oil and gas, chemical plants and pharmaceuticals, standard electronic devices could pose serious explosion risks due to the presence of volatile or flammable materials in the environment. Which means usage of any standard electronic devices, including your smartphones could potentially cause an explosion.

Hence intrinsically safe/explosion-proof smartphones has been viewed as a crucial innovation in ensuring communication and safety in explosive hazardous environments.

What is an Intrinsically Safe Smartphone?

Intrinsically safe smartphone are smartphones that are specifically designed to be safe for use in potentially explosive atmospheres where the presence of flammable gases, vapors, or dust could pose a potential ignition hazard. These smartphones are engineered with rigorous safety standards to prevent sparks or excessive heat that might otherwise cause an explosion.

When is an Intrinsically Safe/Explosion-Proof Smartphone Needed?

These specialized smartphones are essential in industries where volatile substances are present in the atmosphere, such as oil refineries, chemical plants, mining sites, and more. Workers in these environments require communication tools that won’t compromise safety. Typically, these places are classified as Explosive Hazardous Zone/Area and you will usually be notified about the classification and restrictions before being allowed to enter.

What are the different Levels of Explosive Hazardous Area/Zones?

Explosive Hazardous Areas, also known as hazardous zones, are classified into different levels based on the likelihood and duration of the presence of explosive atmospheres. These classifications help in defining the degree of risk and the precautions necessary for working in these areas. The most commonly recognized levels are:

  • Zone 0 : These are areas where explosive atmospheres containing flammable gases, vapors, or mists are continuously present or exist for extended periods and it has the highest risk for potential explosion. An example of a Zone 0 area will be deep within an underground mine where there’s a continuous and high concentration of combustible gases like methane.
  • Zone 1 : These are areas where explosive atmospheres are likely to occur during normal operations but might not persist for extended periods and hence there’s a moderate risk of potential explosion. An example of Zone 1 area will be around fuel storage areas at a refinery where there’s a likelihood of intermittent accumulation of flammable vapors.
  • Zone 2 : These are areas where explosive atmospheres are not likely to occur under normal operating conditions and, if they do, are expected to be infrequent and of short duration. It has a lower risk compared to Zone 1 and Zone 0. An example of Zone 2 areas are in laboratories where flammable solvents are handled but with adequate ventilation to prevent the constant presence of explosive atmospheres.

Who certifies whether a smartphone (or any device) is Intrinsically safe?

Currently the most widely recognized certifications for intrinsically safe/Explosion-proof devices are typically provided by organizations like ATEX or IECEx (or from certified labs adhering to IECEx standards).

What is the difference between ATEX and IECEx for Intrinsically Safe/Explosion proof certification?

The primary distinction between ATEX and IECEx lies in their acceptance scope: ATEX certification is primarily recognized within European Union countries, whereas IECEx certification holds global recognition. Hence, in non-EU countries, IECEx certificates are more commonly accepted.

*Currently all the Intrinsically Safe/Explosion-proof smartphones that we supply are certified based on IECEx standards.

For further details on the difference, you can explore the IECEx website, where they elaborate on the differences in depth. Here is the link: https://www.iecex.com/archive/paris/docs/Guide_IECEx_ATEX_Comparison.pdf

What is the Difference between Intrinsically Safe and Explosion-Proof?

While the terms “intrinsically safe” and “explosion-proof” are often used interchangeably, there are some distinct difference in their approach to safety

Intrinsically safe equipment lacks components capable of accumulating enough energy to ignite in an explosive atmosphere. Typically, these devices, often low-powered, receive an intrinsically safe rating, enabling use in Explosive Hazardous Zones 0, 1, and 2.

Conversely, explosion-proof devices are enclosed in protective casings designed to withstand a gas or vapor explosion. If an ignition or explosion occurs within the equipment, it remains contained within the casing, preventing spread to the surrounding atmosphere. These devices are certified safe for use in Explosive Hazardous Zones 1 and 2, but seldom for Zone 0.

For most end users,  whether a smartphone is classified as intrinsically safe or explosion-proof may not significantly influence their choice. Both designations serve the same purpose: ensuring the phone’s safety for use in potentially explosive environments, except for when usage is in Zone 0, which is exceedingly rare.

How do I know which Explosive Hazardous Zone my Explosion-proof Smartphone can be used in?

For all Explosion-proof certified devices, they will be provided with an explosion-proof certificate with their respective EX Marking/Rating – indicating its suitability for specific hazardous substances and zones. For example, on our Unicorn 9 IS Smartphone, the EX Marking is Ex ib IIC T4 Gb and to know which zone it is rated for, we need to identify its EPL (Equipment Protection Level), which is usually one of the below:

  • Ga : Rated for Zone 0 
  • Gb : Rated for Zone 1
  • Gc : Rated for Zone 2
  • Da : Rated for Zone 20
  • Db : Rated for Zone 21
  • Dc : Rated for Zone 22

And for the case of our Unicorn 9, its EPL rating is Gb, which means that it suitable for Zone 1 (and Zone 2 areas). A complete deciphering of the EX marking for Unicorn 9 will indicate the following:

Ex – Explosion Protected

ib – Rated Intrinsic Safety with a High level of protection

IIC – Safe for use in environment with gases, vapors, or mists from Group IIC (Hydrogen, Acetylene and Carbon Disulphide etc, which are the most dangerous gases)

T4 – Can be used safely in environment where max surface temperature does not exceed 135°C

Gb – Can be used in Zone 1 (and Zone 2)

As our IS smartphones are certified according to IECEx standards, we usually refer to the IECEx guideline to decipher the EX marking. For more details on how to read the EX Marking / rating based on IECEx standards, you can also refer to this website:

https://www.iecex.com/assets/Uploads/D2S2-Ex-Protection-Techniques-BARTEC.pdf

What’s next?

If you’re considering the purchase of an intrinsically safe smartphone, you might be interested in the models available in our inventory. Our range of explosion-proof smartphones has received full certification based on IEC standards. Beyond their explosion-proof design, these smartphones offer all the features of a typical Android device, boasting high-resolution cameras and running with the full suite of functionalities found in the latest Android smartphones. Additionally, certain models even incorporate advanced features like built-in thermal imaging cameras and night vision capabilities, depending on the specific model.

Feel free to explore these Intrinsically Safe smartphones on our website. Should you have any inquiries or need a price quote, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to assist you!

*We strive to offer accurate and up-to-date information derived from reputable sources like ATEX and IEC (as of January 2024). However, our content is intended as a general guide to aid customers in comprehending intrinsically safe and explosion-proof smartphones, not as professional advice.

Although we make every effort to maintain accuracy, we acknowledge the possibility of oversight or changes in information. If you encounter any inaccuracies, we welcome you to contact us via marketing@unitech.com.sg or message us directly on Facebook.

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