Australian Reef Pilots and SmartCap - Up there for thinking
Date: 14.08.2013
Leading maritime company Australian Reef Pilots (ARP) has embraced world-first brainwave technology in pursuit of its ultimate objective of best practice maritime safety standards.

ARP is trialling the Australian-developed SmartCap system, a unique piece of headwear which monitors brain activity to indicate fatigue levels.

ARP CEO Simon Meyjes said SmartCap was another tool in the company’s array of sophisticated technological innovations to enhance ship, crew and environmental safety.

“Our use of the SmartCap is a world-first approach to address the issue of fatigue at sea. It looks like a simple baseball cap but is fitted with sophisticated sensors in the lining,” Mr Meyjes said.

“These sensors monitor brainwaves (electroencephalographic or EEG) activity to accurately calculate the wearer’s level of drowsiness.”

The data is transmitted in real-time to a portable monitor or similar blue-tooth enabled device such as a mobile or cell phone.

The wearer’s alertness is assessed on a 2 to 4 scale with an audible fatigue warning activated if the level reaches 3+ or higher. This notifies the wearer that a ‘micro sleep’ episode may occur.

“This is a self-monitoring system enabling the SmartCap wearer to accurately determine how they’re coping on-the-job, signalling when it is time to take appropriate steps to manage fatigue,” Mr Meyjes said.

“Our trial has international implications for the maritime industry.”

The SmartCap was initially developed for mining and allied industries however ARP identified an opportunity to expand its use into a maritime environment.

Now, ARP and University fatigue experts are developing a rigorous scientific study program which will utilise SmartCaps and Readibands (a watch that monitors wrist movements to determine quality of sleep) to undertake one of the most comprehensive maritime fatigue studies undertaken in Australia.

The research will be the first time both SmartCap and Readibands have been used in parallel to provide data effectively measuring the ability to perform in waking hours (SmartCap), as well as the quality of sleep achieved (Readiband).

SmartCap developer Dr Dan Bongers said because fatigue is a significant threat in the maritime industry it seemed a natural fit to trial a technology that has been successfully deployed shoreside.

“This mine-to-brine transition is a natural progression in an industry where there’s so much at stake,” Dr Bongers said.

“The SmartCap is comfortable to wear and the sensors can read brainwave activity through hair, with no requirement for patches or scalp preparation. It’s not as intrusive as camera or response-based technologies can be.”

Mr Meyjes said SmartCap was the ideal companion to ARP’s award-winning VoyageBank navigation and maritime management program.

“This is an international wake-up call,” he said.

ARP has four working pilot stations and a head office in Brisbane. It employs 44 marine pilots, owns or operates 11 boats and has access to six helicopters under lease agreements.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew Trewin – Sequel Communications +61 7 3251 8111 or 0403 090 915.

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