All of us are familiar with news reports of truck drivers or train operators who fell asleep behind the wheel or were texting while driving, causing devastating accidents. Guardvant, an AZTC Visionary Sponsor and a technology company founded in Tucson, has been helping prevent accidents due to fatigue and distracted driving in mines since 2010 with their innovative technology that shows promise for adoption in the transportation industry.
Technology Advantages for Mining and Beyond
The OpGuard Fatigue and Alertness Monitoring System was developed to help mining companies solve one of their biggest safety concerns ─ operators of heavy machinery falling asleep at the wheel. What makes OpGuard unique from other technologies is that the operator does not have to wear special glasses, a hat, or some type of wearable sensor. OpGuard uses infrared cameras to monitor the operator’s eyelid closure rates for signs of fatigue and head movements for fatigue and distracted driving. The system is turned on automatically when the operators sit in their seat. When fatigue events are detected OpGuard sends audible alarms and activates vibration in the seat to get the driver’s attention and prevent an accident.
Along with using monitors that are non-intrusive to the driver, OpGuard’s key advantage is in its algorithm that produces fewer false positives than other technologies. Mines and drivers quickly lose confidence in systems that incorrectly detect and report incidents that did not occur. Repeated occurrence of these false positives results in abandonment of the technology. Guardvant developed an algorithm that correctly classifies the operator’s movements as fatigue related or not. The more fatigue-related events are correctly tracked and identified, then the lower percentage of false positives.
The algorithm can be modified to monitor for distracted driving, cell phone use and seat-belt use. The incident data is recorded in the analytics server and supervisors have access to a number of different reports which help them track fatigue events by employee, shift time and vehicle.
For supervisors and managers who are in charge of change management, this data can help determine how shifts can be rescheduled so that operators are taking breaks or coming off of a shift during periods when fatigue is a problem.
Mining Technology Innovator
Guardvant’s history in mining and technology runs deep. Prior to starting Guardvant, the founders were key architects of technology that revolutionized the operations and maintenance of mine equipment fleets. In 2015, Guardvant was the winner of the Innovator of the Year Award in the small company category at the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation hosted by the Arizona Technology Council. OpGuard has been a key factor in the company’s success, as well as the company’s other flagship product, ProxGuard. ProxGuard uses radars, GPS and cameras to detect other vehicles or objects in close proximity. When an object in close proximity is detected the operator can see the object in the video screen and receives an audible alert to help them avoid the collision.
Broader Opportunities in Transportation and Public Safety
Guardvant is currently reviewing opportunities to offer OpGuard to bus fleet operators and long-haul trucking companies. OpGuard has been proven to help reduce fatigue-related accidents, save lives and reduce equipment maintenance cost, all of which would make this technology beneficial to the broader transportation sector and for public safety.