I’ll Be Watching You

The next generation of telematics systems are incorporating video and audio recording and streaming for more effective monitoring. Anthony Sharpe reports.

Knowing where your assets are, where they’re going and if they’re getting there safely is top of mind for any freight mover. Any savvy logistics operator will have telematics systems in place to not only monitor their assets, but also to eke out ever-greater efficiencies to offset rising fuel prices, deal with wilier criminals and avoid heavy penalties under the looming shadow of the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (Aarto) Bill. These concerns are driving the development and adoption of new technologies to augment existing systems.

Chief among these is the use of video cameras and microphones to record and process live data, giving context to tracking information, allowing for monitoring of driver behaviour and providing incontrovertible evidence in the event of accidents or theft.

This context is crucial in making sense of the existing data, says Eugene Herbert, group managing director at corporate driver training company MasterDrive.

“If you look at the data you extract from the vehicle through integration with telematics systems, it tells you a number things,” says Herbert. “But you only see the real picture if you combine that with camera technology because that enables you to see what the driver is experiencing at the moment the data is recorded. If you overlay that onto a map, you can also understand where they’re driving and the factors that may be influencing them.”

Rolling camera

Herbert gives the example of US telematics provider GreenRoad, represented locally by Autolytix, which provides a means in the cab for the driver to see their level of performance at a glance.

“Many drivers who know their companies are monitoring them still do things that are wrong,” says Herbert. “You see evidence of this — after they’ve done something wrong, they look up at the camera. So just recording someone’s actions doesn’t necessarily change their behaviour. If you use the data to establish a good baseline, you can set up a training programme built around changing the mentality of the driver.”

Telematics firm Ctrack has introduced a comprehensive video monitoring solution in the form of Ctrack Iris. The solution includes front- and rear-facing cab camera, dash camera with infrared capability and event triggers, side and back cameras, two-way communication, trailer camera, rear door triggers and, crucially, fatigue monitoring.

You are feeling sleepy

Fatigue detection and monitoring is one crucial way freight movers can leverage technology to monitor and improve driver safety on the fly. Seeing Machines is an Australian company specialising in optics processing and computer vision algorithms, its driver fatigue detection technology is being brought into South Africa by Insurance Underwriting Managers (IUM).

Cameras connected to the Seeing Machines platform use visual cues to detect drowsiness, “micro-sleep” and incapacitation, as well as provide a measurement of driver attention. An in-vehicle camera reads the driver’s facial features, tracking eye and head movement to watch for signs of fatigue. If these manifest, it sounds an alarm and creates a vibration to alert the driver.

But alerting the driver in such an instance is only half of the picture, says Herbert. “This technology has been around for a while,” he says, “but what’s remarkable about Seeing Machines is that it also sends a message to someone in the control station who gets hold of the driver and works with them to get them to a safe place where they can sleep. Technology in itself is useless unless it’s supported at a supervisory or management level to ensure that it works in the best interests of both the driver and the company.”

Image: ©iStock - 495441462

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