|Fit for task – driver alert|
| Posted on 30/05/2014 - 08:52|
To prevent accidents due to fatigue, npk design develops a headband or cap measuring brain activity. The device diagnoses and warns on lack-of-alertness and drowsiness.
The problem is that current detectors are motion activated, but the moment a driver starts ‘nodding’ or (not) even closes his eyes, is too late. Every holiday season, society is shaken up by news of horrific crashes. Touring cars veer of the road, or trucks plough into traffic jams packed with families. Mostly, these accidents are caused by a split second of inattention or fatigue from drivers involved. The American Automobile Association estimates 16.5% of deadly car-accidents are due to drowsy driving. Fatigue also plays a role in accidents and near-misses involving pilots, crane-operators and surgeons as well. Studies show that one single night of poor or disrupted sleep causes potentially lethal lapses in concentration. An early warning system would thus be of great societal benefit.
This system alerts a driver 2-3 seconds BEFORE physically nodding off behind the wheel. Commonly, an EEG is measured with 20 electrodes using wet gel to ensure conductivity. Recent studies by University Medical Centre Utrecht demonstrated that drowsiness and delirium can be detected by as few as two electrodes in a frontal-parietal derivation. Meanwhile NPK Design holds proprietary technology capable of replacing the gel. Combined, these solutions turn the device in a wearable sensor, with only 2-4 dry electrodes, without gel, which can conveniently be used. A miniaturised processing unit in the headband or base-ball cap will continuously analyse the EEG-signal and, when lack of fitness is detected, send an auditory alarm signal to either speakers or phone to warn the driver or operator.
Target group and social impact
Primarily the device will be tailored to bus and truck drivers. A second group that benefits are inexperienced car drivers (suddenly driving long distance to their holiday destination) and people having to drive late at night (when their bio-clock is set to “sleep”). It is important to realise, for these target groups the device should be inconspicuous in design and should fit in a simple baseball cap or hairband. Crane operators have caused costly accidents and, if successful, the concept can be expanded to airline pilots, surgeons, or any other activity requiring constant mental alertness. The social benefit is enormous, both by creating awareness in people of their own fatigue-level, allowing them to stop and rest responsibly; and by physically preventing these accidents from happening.
Competences of the applicant
NPK design is an international design agency. The team has decades of experience in developing safety solutions from child car seats and hospital beds to medication adherence systems (Pico™), evacuation systems and many others. NPK offers the development of new product-service combinations and has in-house capacities to generate functional models and prototypes for testing.
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