Health IT

How are car manufacturers integrating biometrics into vehicles to monitor health?

A new Frost & Sullivan report predicts biometrics will be a mainstream feature of cars by 2025 from fatigue alerts to preventing drivers from nodding off.

Ford 's Automotive Wearables Experience lab at its Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford ‘s Automotive Wearables Experience lab at its Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

 

Some terrible accidents have called attention to some of the risks when people with an underlying medical conditions get into the driver’s seat of a car, bus or train. These accidents offer some clues as to the kinds of biometric technologies that car makers are interested in integrating into their vehicles. A report from Frost & Sullivan projects that biometric wearables could be in one out of three cars by 2025.

The report draws attention to security enhancements like fingerprint, voice and iris recognition as well as medical monitoring of heart beats, brain waves, face, fatigue and eyelids, and pulse detection. The technology enabling these capabilities will be built-in, brought-in and cloud enabled, the report noted.

“Partnerships between automotive [original equipment manufacturers] and wearable companies will result in faster penetration of biometrics within the automotive industry, allowing OEMs to save on biometrics related R&D expenditure, while creating growth avenues for wearables companies,” said Joe Praveen Vijayakumar, Frost & Sullivan Intelligent Mobility Industry Analyst, in a news release. “New business models such as device as a service and health as a service will also emerge.”

In an interview with MedCity News earlier this year, Gary Strumolo, the manager for Vehicle Design and Infotronics, Research and Advanced Engineering at Ford Motor Co., noted that wearables are more attractive because this kind of “brought-in technology” is already paid for by the owner and it can go across car lines.

“We saw an opportunity to look at how vehicle connectivity could be repurposed to get information on the health and well-being of drivers…We thought health and wellness could bring serious benefits by getting information off devices that people bring in to ensure people operate” their vehicle safely.

Here are some of the companies making an impact, according to the report:

Empatica, a company co-founded by Rosalind Picard, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, develops wristworn devices to alert people with epilepsy and their caregivers of a seizure, track their duration and frequency, among other work. Although a longterm goal is to help predict an attack before it happens so people can plan accordingly, the company points out that it is years away from that happening. Currently, Empatica’s focus is to improve seizure detection.

Gestigon developed a software system that reads human movement and uses that to interpret behavior in a bid to identify potential health problems and to make cars more user centric.

Optalert uses smart glasses equipped with an LED sensor to measure eyelid movements for drowsiness. The technology is currently used by fleet managers to remotely monitor driver fatigue and take appropriate action.

Sober Steering uses a sensor pad that can be embedded in the steering wheel to detect alcohol. If alcohol is detected above a pre-set limit, the vehicle is immobilized, the company claims on its website.

Vigo produces smart headsets to monitor head movement to detect driver distraction, slouching, and drowsiness, the report noted.

It’s an open question as to how big an impact this technology will actually have towards making driving safer. It will surely raise concerns over the vulnerability of this information to hackers. After all, it’s already been demonstrated that car computers can be hacked into. Car makers may hope it can make standard cars and, the future, self-driving vehicles more attractive and counter the damaging publicity of lawsuits over car safety.