Experts at Goode Intelligence forecast that by 2023, the biometrics market for the connected car will be valued at nearly $1 billion. Much of that growth comes from an intersection of different influences, not the least of which is the demand to make roads safer for everyone.
Driving while significantly tired or fatigued remains one of the most severe problems on the roadway. It may not get as much condemnation as its nefarious cousin, impaired driving, but it’s no less deadly and oftentimes interconnected. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2013, 72,000 road accidents, including 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths, resulted from drowsy driving alone.
In fact, more than 90 percent of road accidents are caused by human errors, in which the driver’s state (inattentiveness, fatigue and drowsiness, distraction, etc.) played an important role, according to the European Commission. Auto manufacturers have responded to correct these issues, incorporating a plethora of driver monitoring systems into vehicles.
The use of the word “plethora” is no mistake, either: it means too many, and that’s the exact state these auto manufacturers find themselves in. The average luxury car currently has up to 100 sensors on board and is projected to reach as many as 200 sensors per car by next year according to the Automotive Sensor and Electronics Expo — not the most cost-effective solution.
As driver monitoring and sensing technology becomes a staple in the next generation of both intelligent and automated vehicles, auto manufacturers are looking for solutions to reduce both costs and increase driver safety. To facilitate continuous monitoring of the driver, in-car systems can take a lesson from the human heart: it works best when it’s lean. But the human heart holds the solution in a far more literal sense as well, through heart-centric biometrics technology (also known as EKG).
EKG monitoring supports multiple applications in the mobility space, offering much needed deployment flexibility for auto OEMs. Key use cases include:
- Health and Wellness: Continuous monitoring for cardiac conditions, fatigue and stress.
- Vehicle Entry: Digital keys on smartphones unlocked by EKG biometrics.
- Engine Start: Turning on the engine via a biometric sensor integrated into the car that can identify the owner and other verified drivers.
- Car Personalization: Biometric identity allowing a car to be personalized for each driver, such as seat height, radio settings, temperature control and more.
- In-Car Payments: Authenticate payments for expenses such as road tolls, drive-through restaurants, petrol and electricity re-charge.
- Insurance: Support “Black Box” telematics by identifying who is in the car and their health state.
- Vehicle-to-home Automation: Control home automation systems and link to the wider IoT world.
The key to all of this lies in the humble steering wheel. When utilizing appropriate conductive materials, steering wheels can accurately relay the electrical activity of the heart when the driver grips the wheel.
While a standard EKG requires 12 connection points called leads on the body, new technology allows an accurate reading from a single lead configuration, or in this case, simply holding the steering wheel. There’s no need for auto manufacturers to factor in the standard hydrogel on silver/silver chloride material that hospitals use to get a precise EKG reading. In addition to new features derived from EKG, B-Secur’s experience in conductive materials including metals, fabrics and coatings actively supports partners and customers in electrode development.
Beyond the ease of implementation into steering wheels, auto manufacturers are turning to EKG monitoring because it can pull double, triple and even quadruple duty to replace other sensors that require more expensive hardware upgrades such as fingerprint scanners and cameras used for facial recognition.
For example, EKG can act as a secure, authentication tool to confirm a driver’s presence and identity because everyone’s cardiac rhythm is completely unique, like a fingerprint or iris. As long as the driver of the vehicle is in contact with the steering wheel, EKG monitoring technology such as B-Secur’s HeartKey solution has the potential to both identify the user as well as provide data that helps keep drivers safe.
The potential impact of this technology is immense. Regular EKG monitoring can detect driver stress, fatigue, and irregular heart patterns such as atrial fibrillation that increase risk for heart attack and stroke. This information combined with the features of a smart vehicle enable scenarios such as the car suggesting a rest break before the driver becomes too fatigued to operate the car safely or improving the car environment to promote alertness by altering lighting, lowering the temperature, etc.
As the connected car becomes increasingly sophisticated, the in-cabin sensors necessary to monitor the driver will need to be multipurpose and seamlessly integrated. Goode Intelligence estimates that in 2023 nearly 39 million biometrically enabled cars (over 37% of cars) will be rolling off production lines. EKG biometrics provide the elegant solution to car security, increasing safety on the road and improved long-term health outcomes for users that auto manufacturers will need to keep up with both user-demand and technology-policy updates.
About the author
Alan Foreman is the CEO of B-Secur. Leading biometrics disruptor B-Secur, Alan defines and implements the company strategy, and has established a world-class team in the fields of science, technology, and security. Alan’s passion for technology was cultivated in his previous role as a managing director at Accenture, responsible for Enterprise Technology and Innovation with a focus on multiple industries, most notably Life Sciences.