Entrepreneur’s vision to protect lone workers

Craig Swallow
Craig Swallow
Have your say

CRAIG Swallow first came up with the idea for a device to protect people who work alone when he was at a conference organised by the trust set up after the disappearance of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh.

More than a decade later and the business that grew out of this idea has sold more than 120,000 systems, mainly in the UK but also in overseas markets.

Mr Swallow, managing director and founder of Dinnington-headquartered Connexion2, said: “Lone workers are people who operate doing a job away from immediate visual view or audible view of colleagues.”

This covers a range of people who may be at risk of verbal abuse or physical assault in their jobs, he said.

“Ten years ago I think the awareness of those types of risks was relatively low,” said Mr Swallow. “I met plenty of people (at the conference organised by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust in 2002), nurses, social workers, who had this risk and it shocked me frankly some of the stories I heard that day.

“That set me off thinking there must be a way of developing a technology that these people could use that would be discreet and simple to use.”

Connexion2 was born in 2003 in collaboration with two other companies, electronic and software design firm Triteq in Berkshire and industrial design business AME in Dinnington. The business was backed by funding from sources including South Yorkshire Investment Fund.

Connexion2’s product, Identicom, which is manufactured in Yorkshire, looks like an ID badge, but it contains an alarm which is connected to a 24/7 security centre, which manages escalation through to emergency services if required.

The device can capture audio evidence and can locate a worker via a GPS signal.

Connexion2’s biggest client is the NHS, which has 40,000 of the devices deployed across England and Wales.

Other customers include housing associations, councils, retailers, utility firms, probation services and schools.

BSkyB and Travelodge are among Connexion2’s client portfolio.

Mr Swallow said: “Over the years I’ve seen the reasons for a client to do this move from being one of a purely moral driver, a moral desire to make sure their staff are safe, whereas nowadays the understanding of the risk and cost of the risk is more evident.

“Today, for businesses it’s more about concerns about reputational brand damage, for instance perhaps it’s their insurance company advising them to better protect certain staff with certain risks, it might be an understanding of the cost of litigation of a staff member litigating against their emp- loyer.”

Connexion2 was acquired in May by American company, Kings III, based in Texas.

Turnover at Connexion2 for its 2013 financial year has reached £4.3m, compared to £3m the previous year.

“In terms of the number of systems deployed, looking at 2013 compared to 2012, it’s 40 per cent up on last year”, said Mr Swallow.

Most of the 120,000 devices that have been sold since Connexion2’s inception are in the UK market, but the firm also serves parts of the world such as the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.

Mr Swallow plans to increase the level of export sales in the future.

Connexion2, which employs nearly 40 people, is continuing to develop the Identicom product. As well as its HQ in Dinnington, it has a satellite office in Surrey.

Mr Swallow said: “There are a number of recent things that we’ve done, we’ve put cameras into the devices. We’ve had requests for that from our retail clients.

“We are putting temperature sensors into the devices for workers who operate in high or low temperature environments.”

Connexion2 celebrates its 10th anniversary next month.

Mr Swallow said: “We have resisted the temptation to move manufacturing to Eastern Europe or the Far East because we get a great product built here in Yorkshire and it’s very useful. It’s very helpful to literally have the manufacturing half an hour away from our head office.”

He added: “For me, I love what we do because we deliver a very real answer to a very serious problem.”

Prior to setting up Connexion2, Mr Swallow worked for a number of organisations, always involved in commercialising wireless technologies.

Trust formed out of tragedy

SUZY Lamplugh, a 25-year-old estate agent, disappeared in 1986 after she went to meet an unknown client.

She has been presumed murdered and was legally declared dead in 1993. To date, her body has not been found.

Her parents, Paul and Diana Lamplugh, founded the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to highlight the risks people face and to offer advice, action and support to minimise those risks.

Mr Lamplugh has given his support to the Yorkshire Post Christmas campaign in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society.

Mrs Lamplugh suffered a devastating stroke in 2003 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She died at the age of 75.