Safety First

Partnership between Caterpillar and See Machines offers fatigue monitoring technology for the mining segment. Learn more about the service differentials and operations of the Sotreq Group - one of the first dealers to invest in the system

In May 2013, Caterpillar signed an alliance agreement with Seeing Machines to offer fatigue monitoring technology through the authorized dealers. The idea behind the partnership is to offer a complete monitoring service designed to improve operator safety.

With head office in Canberra, Australia, Seeing Machines is market leader and has 2,500 system units installed in 22 countries. Formed by a team of professionals with PhDs in sleep study, the company operates using the DSS (Driver State Sensor) hardware installed inside the equipment and can read the operator's face and eye movement to detect moments of distraction and fatigue. This technology is already used in other areas such as aviation and transport. Both modern and innovative, the system caught the attention of Sotreq, which was one of the first dealers to sell the solution. "Brazil is one of the world's main mining markets and requires technologies that assist with the productivity and safety of the operations," said Bruno Peixoto, Commercial Development Manager at Sotreq. "For Sotreq, which works with the main players from the country's mining segment, offering this system demonstrates a constant concern with safety during equipment operations at the mine," he said.

For him, the proposal allows clients from all over Brazil to maintain high level of safety during the operations. "The goal is not just to monitor, but also offer a management service that can determine the best response to a fatigue and distraction incident," he said. "It is crucial that companies monitor the fatigue levels among the professionals involved with the operation", he commented.

The Chilean unit of Seeing Machines will assist with the installation of these technologies on Brazilian soil. “We have a team with 20 professionals in Santiago who focus on the commercial, technical and administrative aspects with all the dealers in Latin America," said Jorge Morales, General Manager of Seeing Machines Latin America. "We are very committed to this partnership with Sotreq," he said.

How it Works

The system follows all the standards that a mining environment needs. It has hardware connectors inspired by the same level of technology used in the military area, so as to guarantee the operation. The equipment is able to read the eyes and movement of the entire operator's face using algorithms, infrared rays and image processing techniques, resulting in a continuous evaluation of drowsiness and distraction.

One of the differentials of DSS is that it works in any operation – including non-stop operations, known as the "24/7" – and does not require the use of eye protection and helmets. "The equipment is installed in the vehicle cab and not next to the driver, allowing him or her to work more comfortably, while the DSS remains alert and detects any moment of distraction," explained Morales. The tool automatically recognizes the face of each operator and there is not need to stop the operation while changing shifts.

When it detects some inappropriate behavior, the system immediately triggers sound alarms and causes the seat to vibrate. The integrated GPS also tracks the route and indicates any route deviation. All data is collected and sent to the central office, where the fatigue management software will evaluate the event to propose the best response.

“The idea is not just to call the operator's attention, but also to work based on the information received and define a strategy for allocating operators per shift," said Peixoto. "It is even possible to identify which period of the day is the best one for each operator to work," he said.

Information Levels and Alerts

At the first information level, the system installed in the cab is designed to detect and alert the operator about the occurrence of events, reducing potential accident risks. The alarms are sounded and the seat vibrates.

The second information level generates data for the fleet supervisors. The information is sent via the network to the fleet management system at the office. This allows the supervisor to intervene in the case immediately, helping to prevent the accident.

The third information level gathers all of the information from the events into a database, which will be used to create a strategy for preventing fatigue.

Demo Briefcase

In order to help others view the system created by Seeing Machines, Sotreq acquired a demo briefcase in the format of a pelican case (reinforce portable briefcase). It includes all of the hardware that will be installed inside the truck so that the client can become more familiar with each one.

The case also contains the vibration and sound alarm device that is activated when some moment of fatigue is detected. A liquid crystal screen allows for user access to data management software.

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue is a continuous process occurring in the brain that can be expressed through a series of habits, such as quickly opening and shutting the eyes, drooping eyelids, yawning, nodding off and certain head movements.

One of the factors responsible for fatigue is sleep deprivation. Sleeping poorly may lead to serious consequences, such as a change in heart rate, mental confusion and drowsiness, as well as exhaustion itself.

Such symptoms are considered risk factors for safe driving. After all, they negatively affect the capacity to drive, reduce concentration and may lead to aggressive behavior and poor mood. Fatigue also changes certain facial expressions. That is why it becomes important to have a tool capable of reading facial movements to detect periods of distraction.

Installation and Support

When acquiring DSS, the first phase is the installation of hardware in the trucks. After that, the management software is installed at the dispatch center or central office. And finally, the entire system is configured.

The support work is also divided up into two phases. The first is the installation and maintenance of the system, called "on-site," which will be developed by Sotreq technicians especially trained in system installation. The second phase allows for access to the entire service package acquired with the product license, including data analysis, real-time alarms, the delivery of statistical reports and fleet diagnoses and the monitoring of events any day and time. When fatigue is detected, such information is also sent to Seeing Machines, which works together with the client to minimize problems.

Easy to use, the software installed at the dispatch center or central office grants access to the entire fleet and is operated with the use of colors. Green means that the fleet is operating normally, while yellow means that there may be operators entering a phase of fatigue and red represents drivers that have already been alerted and are in a state of increased attention.

During the first month of fatigue management work, the system is configured. However, the alarms inside the equipment cab are deactivated. This action allows system operators to view the number of fatigue events that occur and are not effectively identified to generate a baseline of events. After the first month, the cab alarm system is activated and a substantial drop in fatigue events can be verified, thereby allowing for the management and definition of a response protocol to fatigue. "Some operations are unaware of the number of fatigue and distraction events," said Peixoto. "After the alarms are activated inside the cab, the numbers fall drastically," he said.

Initially, the service will be available for the transport fleet, which consists basically of trucks. However, it can also be installed in other equipment, such as a crawler tractor or wheel loader.

The good news is that the system is not intended exclusively for new equipment. Those that are already operating can use the tool, which also operates in mixed fleets (consisting of Cat® equipment and that from other manufacturers).

Maintenance and Support

Performed by highly qualified technicians from Sotreq, maintenance is part of the service package offered to clients who are interested in fatigue monitoring. Because the company also has a structure designed for high technology systems, there was no need for specific training. In order to serve the client in the best possible way, Sotreq maintains units located nearby all the mines in operation.

Aware of the importance of working together with a company the size of Sotreq, Morales emphasized: "During the entire time we have worked together, Sotreq has demonstrated why it is one of the main equipment suppliers for mining," he said. The professionals do excellent monitoring and support work, two phases that are essential for winning clients' trust."

The General Manager of Seeing Machines Latin America further points out that the technology created by the Australian company requires a team of technicians with the right qualifications and high service level.

The clients are quite satisfied with the tool. Durability and strength are some of the points they highlight. Furthermore, they cite the possibility of having access to a complete management system instead of simply working with alerts.

The partnership between Sotreq and Seeing Machines, which began in 2014, will continue to grow. “Our goal is to consolidate the DSS tool in Brazil as the most effective technology available on the market to boost the productivity of the operations," said Morales.

Republished with permission from the publisher of ELO Magazine issue of 2014