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Seatback sensor monitors driver alertness

Technology News |
By Christoph Hammerschmidt


By detecting changes in electric potential, the seatback system is able to sense the electrical impulses of the heart without direct skin contact and can return an accurate R peak signal from the users ECG which can be used to calculate Heart Rate Variability (HRV or the variation in the time interval between heartbeats).

“These changes become more regular as you become drowsy”, explained EPIC Commercial Director Alan Colman in a meeting at electronica, “so you can work out if the driver is becoming drowsy before he/she falls asleep, which is not the case of most camera-based eye-control systems that only detect when the person is actually falling asleep, which would be too late in most cases”.

“In the automotive industry, truck OEMs also want to look for tachycardia (accelerated pulses) or bradycardia (abnormally slow) to monitor the driver’s condition and eventually automatically bring the truck or bus to a safe stop”, Colman said, adding that the EPIC sensors are an easy retrofit (with the seat).


The company is also pushing its technology in aeronautics, where the wellbeing of pilots as well as of passengers could be monitored. “A few passengers die on transatlantic flights every year and special seats reserved to passengers with a medical condition could be equipped with our sensors”, said Colman, “then this monitoring solution may be extended to first class seat, then business and eventually to all passengers, say to turn-off the infotainment system when they fall asleep”.

But another interesting application of the EPIC sensor is for authentication. “Each person has a unique Heart Rate Variability and their ECG is like a signature. So in automotive or aeronautical applications, the same sensor could double up as an alertness monitor and to authenticate the driver or pilot. This would reduce overall system costs, compared to having to design an additional biometrics authentication unit in the cockpit”.

Plessey is actively investigating this novel biometrics application.

Visit Plessey Semiconductors at www.plesseysemiconductors.com

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