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SmartCap Reads Brain Waves to Monitor Workers' Fatigue Levels 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the wearing-the-tired-hat dept.
Zothecula writes "You don't need to be an expert in occupational safety to know that worker fatigue is one of the leading causes of workplace accidents — this particularly applies to people who operate heavy machinery or drive for a living. While it would be great if all employees simply took a break when fatigue started setting in, it can sometimes be difficult for people to tell just how tired they really are. That, or they decide that they just want to push through and get the job done, drowsiness be damned. An invention from Australia's EdanSafe, however, takes the guesswork out of the picture. It's called the SmartCap, and it measures employee fatigue in real time by monitoring its wearer's brain waves."
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SmartCap Reads Brain Waves to Monitor Workers' Fatigue Levels

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  • Does it include a smartphone app?

  • Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:03PM (#38877925)

    Now we can enforce policies which say that workers can't stop until they are completely worn out.

    • Re:Great! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:10PM (#38878025)

      Joking aside, I actually wonder if this would be used to rate employees (based on who can work the longest with least fatigue). Is that something a person can even control/improve?

    • Re:Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oddjob1244 (1179491) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:11PM (#38878035)

      Now we can enforce policies which say that workers can't stop until they are completely worn out.

      I was thinking it would just vary your pay based on how worn out you are. Stayed up late last night, running on empty today? You're earning about half your salary today then.

    • by dslauson (914147)
      Right. It seems like a really bad idea to set the precedent that it's totally OK for employers to ask employees to submit to brain scanning. Sure, they can't get much from it now besides a metric for your fatigue, but as the technology starts getting better...
      • Well once they have your base line readings anything like a drink at lunch or perhaps a little "contact high" from a co-worker that uses pot should be immediately apparent... best bet is be wasted when they take the base line measurements... you know, just to be "safe"...
      • by alreaud (2529304)
        The day they start brain scanning prospective employees in America, that's the day I drop out of the modern world and go live in the back-country. It's bad enough now you almost have to have a Facebook account and pee in the bottle first. Screw that, at some point enough is enough, go pack sand Herr Employer, and while you're doing that build your own fucking widget, :P
    • Now we can enforce policies which say that workers can't stop until they are completely worn out.

      It's being tested in godless socialist Australia, not in U.S. So, not yet.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      ...most employees are *already* worn out before the day is over.

  • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:03PM (#38877935)

    The problem has never been knowing whether a worker is tired or the degree. Workers are well aware of how tired they are. The problem is jobs that pretty much require them to keep working anyway.

    • That's oversimplifying the problem. Train drivers have to push an "awekeness button" periodically for a reason. Now we have an additional tool for that.

    • by Jimmy_B (129296)

      The problem has never been knowing whether a worker is tired or the degree. Workers are well aware of how tired they are. The problem is jobs that pretty much require them to keep working anyway.

      Workers may know that they're tired, but they can't easily prove it, and they can hide it if they don't want to lose pay. If someone goes to their boss and says they're too tired to work safely, they're likely to be ignored, and told to keep working. But if there's an impartially generated number that says they're t

      • by Anrego (830717) *

        True.

        However if a worker made a habit out of this, they'd probably conveniently get laid off the next time the company “right sizes”, and replaced with a less complainant worker.

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Ok, my brain isn't working... replace "complainant" with something more apprioriate!

  • When I begin to hallucinate I usually like to take a break.

    • But what if you don't know its a hallucination? By God, man, what if those flying pink ponies are real!?

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      I find I get to a point where I have what I refer to as mini dreams. I wouldn't really call it hallucinations. More like a drift off for a second, see something weird (usually centered around the room I'm in), then wake up without realizing I had fallen asleep.

      That's my personal "ok, time for bed now" indicator.

      • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:16PM (#38878111) Homepage

        That's called hypnagogic imagery :)

        • by Anrego (830717) *

          Hmm, interesting. Based on some quick browsing, that seems to describe it exactly. Thanks! :)

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        Once in Pre-Ranger, we were in the field for 7 days and got around 2 hours of sleep TOTAL. Everyone was falling asleep, standing, walking, it didn't matter. Lay in the prone for a minute and you would have a dream that you were in the prone with a rifle, pulling security.... like your brain had to trick you to thinking you were awake just so it could get some rest.

        Anyway, I was laying there pulling security in the patrol base while the PL planned the next mission and me and this white rabbit were talking ab

    • by SEWilco (27983)

      When I begin to hallucinate I usually like to take a break.

      Quit slacking off. As long as you're alert enough to dodge the snails that the elephant is throwing at you, you're alert enough to keep that truck moving.

  • Can any experts out there who work with sensors and EEG comment on 1. the efficacy of a cap mounted EEG sensor array (are there issues with making sure sensors are correctly in contact with the skin rather than hair, etc.)? 2. Challenges around correct automatic analysis of received data? What kind of accuracy is required from this kind of set up to be able to conclude successfully how fatigued an operator is? What is the permissible level of error with readings (do you need to be super-accurate or is this

  • You know this will be used to fire people whose brain waves suggest that they tire (even slightly) faster than others, and replace them with more efficient humans...

    Something tells me the use of such a device will be blocked (especially in unionized industries).

  • by n5vb (587569) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:09PM (#38878011)

    .. so we've decided to let you go because we're afraid you might have an accident and sue us or make the company look bad .."

    Trust me, the minute these things are hooked up to statistical reporting systems, they'll be used to benefit the company and not the workers.

    • by na1led (1030470)
      They'll find some way to wake you up with a small electrical shock, or Sonic Sound. They'll start using this technology overseas to keep workers working to maximum capacity. I think they had something like this in the movie THX1138.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Fortunately they are already illegal in the EU.

      On the positive side I can see them being useful for evaluating things like pilot fatigue and developing ways to limit it on long flights.

  • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @12:12PM (#38878059)
    working 70 hour work weeks... How will they distinguish tired from normal
  • by koan (80826)

    Another brilliant invention from Australia, the nation with the highest alcohol related brain shrinkage in the World.

    So people that read higher on average for fatigue get canned, people that stay sharp longer keep their jobs and the flood gates for all sorts of "brain monitoring" opening, soon there will be a job focus measurement, you get distracted to easily!!! You're fired!!!

  • <quote><p>While it would be great if all employees simply took a break when fatigue started setting in, it can sometimes be difficult for people to tell just how tired they really are.</p></quote>

    It would be great if my employer allowed a break when fatigue sets in, rather than making me wait until my mandated break time.

    If this becomes common, expect the slave mines to get even worse.
  • I will have to provide for it in my budget for my team. I am going to order one for each member of my team. Will instrument it to add a trigger in clear-case preventing check-ins when their fatigue level is high.

    Note to self: Also order coffee machines integrated with intravenous delivery control modules to inject more caffeine when the fatigue level goes above threshold into these bitching and moaning, belly aching malingerers, when their caffeine systems have too much blood in them.

    Second note to self:

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      trigger in clear-case

      Man, I physically, in real life _grimaced_ reading that!

      Sincere condolences.. hang in there man.. and always remember that just because your corner of this world may be dark, there is always still happiness elsewhere.

    • by Pope (17780)

      Note to self: Also order coffee machines integrated with intravenous delivery control modules to inject more caffeine when the fatigue level goes above threshold into these bitching and moaning, belly aching malingerers, when their caffeine systems have too much blood in them.

      Or cut out caffeine to your team altogether, be more productive: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/02/22/coffee/ [youarenotsosmart.com]

  • This was done in 3001, everyone had to wear a cap to monitor brainwaves. And in the BBC series The Tripods. This is not a new idea. Arthur C Clarke was a visionary.

  • ...and the headgear quits sensing how tired you are, and TELLS YOU how tired you are.

    I'm meaning to be facetious with this, but I suspect that at some level this really is possible. Just like medications can keep you awake and improve your alertness, I'm strongly suspect that some form of electrostimulation could do the same, probably with fewer ill side-effects. As has been said about the "brain pills", how far from "neat trick" to "mandatory to keep your job in a competitive market"?

    Do Republicans reall

  • by mwlp (2019424)
    I literally just dozed off while reading this article.
  • Not going to be used even remotely for what it should be excluding heavy machinery (which would be very valueable).

    They'll use it to monitor performance levels. Employee's often perform less work when tired than when awake and alert. Stores will want to use them to monitor sales associates and so on. They can also tell then if you're coming into work tired and use these metrics in determining if they should let you go.

    "Hmm..sales are bad this month. Could just be a slow month for retail....oh hey..look...ji

  • I think you could do that with a tilt meter. They need those in classrooms, too.
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @01:15PM (#38878991)

    SmartCap version 1 just reads how tired you are. SmartCap version 2 senses the subjects you are thinking about. SmartCap version 3 with new Employee Thought Enforcement Collar can give the employee a mild shock if the employee's thoughts veer off of approved topics. Your workers' productivity will improve dramatically once you can restrict their thoughts to only work-based activities!

  • by Last_Available_Usern (756093) on Tuesday January 31, 2012 @01:28PM (#38879139)
    This is great, but you can bet someone will find a medication that artificially lowers brainwaves to get out of doing work.
  • Watch for this to be used in stealth ageism.

  • The government has been reading the minds of citizens for years using covertly-implanted neurotechnology that they put in people's heads while they are knocked out. Remember all those "alien abduction" stories of the past 20-30 years?

    The neurotech is like a hyper-advanced version of your iPhone. But it lets them send commands to your brain, including verbal thought, audio and video information and motor commands (involuntary movement). They can also decode what you are thinking in real-time.

    This is al
  • Physical pain is biology's way of telling us something is wrong, yet it's one thing doctors have no objective way of measuring.

    The amount of pain a person is *really* experiencing, and its location and nature, are in many cases the only information a doctor has to go on for both diagnosing and treating injuries and illnesses. If they could measure that pain the way they can measure temperature and blood pressure - their ability to treat us effectively would be increased as dramatically as it has by the exis

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