Caterpillar Backs Eye Tracker to Combat Driver Fatigue

Caterpillar Backs Eye Tracker to Combat Driver Fatigue
Eye and face-tracking technology that aims to prevent accidents caused by fatigue is being rolled out by the world’s biggest mining equipment maker. Caterpillar is to sell a package of sensors, alarms and software which detect when a truck driver is about to fall asleep.

BHP Billiton and gold producer Newmont Mining have already carried out trials. The firms believe it out-performs earlier systems that needed workers to wear special equipment. Driver Safety Solution (DSS) also benefits from the fact it does not need to be recalibrated when one worker swaps shift with another.

The product was developed by Australian firm, Seeing Machines, which secured the tie-up with Caterpillar after a panel of experts selected it over 21 rival technologies. It will cost up to $20,000 (£13,260) to install on each vehicle, although a discount applies if it is bought in bulk.  According to the Parker Bay Company, a mining research firm, there were approximately 38,500 active mining trucks in service at the end of last year.

DSS uses a camera to detect a driver’s pupil size, how frequently they blink, and how long they keep their eyes shut. In addition it tracks where the user’s mouth is in order to work out when the workers are not looking at the road.

To help identify these features truck cabs are also fitted with an infrared lamp. Its light is invisible to humans, but allows the camera to see in the dark and through employees’ safety glasses. An accelerometer and GPS chip are also installed to confirm the truck is being driven at the time, and the data is processed by a computer mounted behind the driver’s seat which is designed to cope with strong vibrations and dust.

The aim is to detect the onset of micro-sleep – periods when a person passes out for anywhere from a fraction of a second to up to half a minute, and then wakes up again without realising they lost consciousness. If the computer’s software believes this has occurred it triggers an audio alarm and vibrates a motor built into the driver’s seat to rouse them.  An alert is also sent back to the miner’s support staff who can view a streamed video feed of the driver’s eyes and view data about their recent behaviour.

“Dependent on the organisation’s fatigue mitigation policy, they will then decide what to do with the driver,” explained Ken Kroeger, chief executive of Seeing Machines. “For most mining companies the first incident doesn’t result in any communication. The second one will result in a radio call to see if the driver is OK and possibly get them to pull into the fuel depot and get a cup of coffee to help them keep going.”And the third incident will result in them being assigned some other tasks instead of driving.” Mr Kroeger suggested that in time a similar camera-based warning system might become as “common as airbags” across the auto industry.

For now he acknowledged that the system was not perfect: for example, if a user glances down, the camera loses sight of the driver’s eyes and sounds the alarm.

Even so, a spokesman for Newmont Mining told the BBC it believed DSS had reduced fatigue-related incidents by 90% during a pilot study at one of its sites in Nevada.

Research suggests that fatigue is a major problem for the trucking industry. A 2011 Brazilian study indicated sleepiness caused 4.5% of truck crashes on the country’s roads, and almost 50% of incidents were caused by “inattention”. Another study the same year based on coroners’ inquest examinations suggested driver fatigue caused about 10% of reported truck crashes in Australia.

Experts say these figures may still underestimate the problem.

“Fatigue is difficult to identify post-crash because there are no physical markers, like the sort that can be identified using blood tests, as for drugs and alcohol,” Dr Daniel Blower, from the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, told the BBC. “The best estimate that I have seen is that the true incidence of fatigue in truck crashes is likely to be two to three times higher than in the captured crash data.”

Although miners have been able to limit some of the more common causes of collision – such as speeding and mechanical defects – tiredness remains a problem. According to Caterpillar’s own data, operator fatigue was a factor in 65% of truck haulage accidents in 2007. Seeing Machine’s product is not the only one targeting the issue.

The cheapest solution is head-nod sensors – either built into workers’ helmets or hooked around their ears – but the nature of the drivers’ job means false alarms can be a problem.

Australia’s AcuMine offers a product called HaulCheck which uses laser scanners and guide posts along truck routes to sound an alarm if trucks head off-path.  Another Australian firm, Optalert, monitors eyelid movements to warn of problems at an earlier point, but unlike Seeing Machines it involves workers having to wear a special pair of glasses. And British firm Fatigue Management International offers a system called Astid which monitors steering movements to detect exaggerated corrections and other indicators of sleepiness.

BBC Abandons £100m Digital Project

BBC Abandons £100m Digital Project
The BBC has scrapped a £98m digital production system, which its director general said had “wasted a huge amount of licence fee payers’ money”. The Digital Media Initiative was set up in 2008 but was halted last autumn having never become fully operational. “I have serious concerns about how we managed this project,” BBC director general Tony Hall said. An independent review has been launched “to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned”, he said.

The Digital Media Initiative (DMI) was intended to transform the way staff developed, used and shared video and audio material and was seen as an important part of a move of resources to Salford. “Ambitious technology projects like this always carry a risk of failure,” Lord Hall said. “It does not mean we should not attempt them but we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here.”

The contract to deliver the DMI was originally awarded to technology company Siemens in 2008 but was taken over and re-launched by an in-house BBC team in 2010. Between 2010 and 2012, the project cost the corporation £98.4m. An internal review was set up in October 2012 after the BBC Trust expressed serious concerns.

In a letter to Margaret Hodge, chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the BBC Trust’s Anthony Fry revealed the project had generated “little or no assets”. “It is of utmost concern to us that a project which had already failed to deliver value for money in its early stages has now spent so much more of licence fee payers’ money,” he said. “We intend to act quickly to ensure that there can be no repeat of a failure on this scale.” Mrs Hodge described the episode as “a terrible shock and clearly completely shambolic”.

The corporation said the initiative had been badly managed and outpaced by changing technology, and that to carry on would be throwing good money after bad. “It’s struggled to keep pace with new developments and requirements both within the BBC and the wider broadcasting industry,” Lord Hall wrote in an email to BBC staff.

“There are now standard off-the-shelf products that provide the kind of digital production tools that simply didn’t exist five years ago.” “We will be looking into what has happened and will take appropriate action, disciplinary or otherwise,” he added.

John Linwood, the BBC’s chief technology officer, has been suspended.

In 2011, then director general Mark Thompson told the Public Accounts Committee that the initiative was “critical” to the BBC’s move to Media City in Salford and the establishment of new Broadcasting House. “A lot of the future of the BBC is tied up in the successful delivery of this project,” he said, at the time.

James Purnell, the BBC’s director of strategy and digital, said: “In the future we are going to rely far more on off-the-shelf technology. We’ve messed up and we apologise to licence fee payers for that.”

Yet he insisted the failed project was “the exception rather than the rule”, citing technical successes such as the BBC iPlayer.

Dell Posts 79% Fall in Profits

Dell Posts 79% Fall in Profits
Dell has reported a 79% slide in net profit, underlining a fall in personal computers sales as more consumers shift to smartphones and tablets.  The PC maker’s net profit fell to $130m (£85m) in the three months to 3 May, on revenue down 2% to $14bn.

Dell is in the middle of a dispute between founder Michael Dell and two of its biggest shareholders.

Mr Dell wants to take the company private, but some investors oppose the plan. Mr Dell, and private equity group Silver Lake, have offered to buy back the company for $24.4bn, and have pledged to shift the business away from PCs to mobile devices.

But its biggest shareholders – the investor Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management – have argued that the valuation of the company is too cheap, and that Mr Dell’s deal is a “giveaway”.Instead, they have proposed to offer additional shares to shareholders and install new management.

In its quarterly results, Dell said that revenue from new technologies, services and software, rose 12% to $5.5bn. That was in contrast to PC sales, which fell 9%.

The company did not issue a profit guidance for the second quarter due to the ongoing dispute. It has created a special committee of the board to study the private equity deal and alternative bids.

Promoting Kids Fitness & Fitness Activities

Promoting Kids Fitness & Fitness Activities
We at Direct Submit are continuing to work with a specialist children’s fitness company; Kidz R Fit. The company have become very well known for helping convince both parents and the children that ‘children’s fitness can be FUN’ and encouraging a healthy life style.

Kids R Fit provides children with a professional, supportive and friendly environment to take part in fitness activities, which benefit them socially, mentally and physically. Many of the fitness and dance packages are located within local within schools, nurseries, playgroups and communities, affording easy access for all.

Having done extremely well at a regional level Kidz R Fit Kid Fitnesss services are now looking to broaden their horizons and expand into the National Kids Health and Fitness arena.

The team at Direct Submit are pleased to be able to help Kidz R Fit continue to promote their business across the Internet.

Brighter UK Economic Prospects

UK Businesses View Brighter Economic Prospects
Confidence is improving across most UK businesses, according to the latest business surveys, although manufacturers are less optimistic. Business lobby group the CBI said the economy was moving from “flat to growth”, although it kept its forecast for growth this year at 1%.

Meanwhile, accountancy firm BDO said business confidence improved in April, particularly in the services sector. However, BDO said the outlook for manufacturing “remains bleak”.  And the CBI said “clear challenges” remained both at home and abroad, with uncertainty in the eurozone and what it called a muted international outlook holding back investment.

It said that at home, inflation presented a problem for consumers who were finding it eroding their living standards. It expects inflation to peak at 3.1% during this quarter. The CBI’s director-general, John Cridland, said: “Amongst CBI companies, there’s a general sense that the forward mood has brightened a little.” He said the government’s Funding for Lending Scheme was beginning to have an impact: “When I talk to small businesses, they are already seeing the benefit on cost [of credit], and lower cost leads to more availability.”

The BDO survey gauges optimism in business performance and the economy over the next six months. Although its Optimism Index hit 93.0, it is still below the score of 95 needed to indicate growth. However, the index did move up 0.8 points from March, and is at its highest point since October 2012.

Peter Hemington, a partner at BDO, said confidence seemed to be returning slowly to UK businesses, and that there was a continuing revival in the services sector. “However, as in previous months, our indices reveal a mixed picture,” he added. “The manufacturing sector is a particular concern. If it is serious about its plan to rebalance the UK economy, we continue to believe that the government could do more to help UK manufacturing, particularly by encouraging both lending and investment in the sector. “We also still think there is an excellent opportunity for the government to expedite the UK’s economic recovery by increasing public investment.”

The BDO report said the divergence between the expected fortunes of the services and manufacturing sectors could be partly explained by the impact of increasing inflationary pressures on UK businesses. Manufacturing, it said, had been hit harder by the rising prices of energy and commodities.

Directing Brides-to-be to your Online Business

Getting Brides to your Business in the Digital Age
Businesses operating within the wedding industry, either as a wedding photographer, caterer, an invitation artist, specialist wedding florist or something else altogether, looking to promote their business on the Internet will have a primary aim of getting more brides to their business. Fortunately, there will never be a shortage of brides to be, and couples are still continuing to tie the knot at venues all over the UK.

However, with the incredible levels of competition between wedding related businesses, marketing to brides has never been more important. These days, a wedding services company can’t rely on brides to simply find them in the Yellow Pages – those days are long gone. They need to take steps to market to brides effectively in order to win much needed business.

Promoting an Optimised Website
Of course, one of the key ways to market a business is to keep a website. With most brides now using online search engines to look for products and services for their weddings, it’s vital that a company has an online presence in order to attract custom. We’re living in a digital age and businesses should keep this in mind when deciding if they should invest in a website.

Using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) & Internet Marketing, a website can be fully optimised for the major search engines, ensuring it is as visible as possible search results. As well as employing the principles of SEO, a business should ensure that its website is well designed, professional and provides brides with adequate information about your services. High-quality images will also help in marketing your services to modern brides. Like Wedding Invitation Ideas – www.weddinginvitationideas.co.uk

A Detailed Blog
As well as a website, which should be a prerequisite when starting a business, a blog should also be strongly considered. Whatever aspect of the wedding industry a company works in, it’s worth them recognising that brides don’t only view a website to hire services – they use it to gather inspirational ideas for their weddings. To appeal to these brides, companies should keep a detailed and informative blog. Blogs are a great way to improve a company’s visibility in the search engines, especially if relevant keywords are integrated into the copy strategically.

Connect with Brides via Skype
The digital age allows businesses to connect with brides like never before. With Skype – a video calling and chatting giant with over 45 million users, it’s possible to chat with brides face to face to win business and schedule real life meetings. Skype has actually been around for approaching 10 years, but it has changed and advanced to the point where it is now an indispensable tool for businesses who want to connect easily with customers.

Brides enjoy chatting face to face about their needs and requirements, some of which can be very personal to them, and so Skype can be an essential marketing tool for any business in the wedding industry. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which were once considered little more than a joke by businesses only a couple of years ago should also be capitalised on when connecting with brides.

The most effective of all could be connecting with networks and online platforms that give brides wedding planning tips, wedding ideas and wedding inspiration like www.bigdaybliss.com

Windows 8 Update

Windows 8 Update Public Preview to be Released in June
Microsoft has announced it will offer a preview version of its first major update to Windows 8 next month. The news comes amid growing criticism of the software’s user interface. Microsoft said the revision to the operating system (OS), codenamed Windows Blue, would be released at Build, a three-day developers event in San Francisco starting on 26 June.

However, while the company said it had listened to “feedback”, it has still not disclosed what changes are planned. Microsoft added that a final version of Windows Blue would be released before the end of the year, and highlighted that it had already sold more than 100 million licences for the system.

The Verge, ZDNet and other tech blogs have reported that the update could mean Microsoft reversing its decision to remove the start button from the system’s desktop environment. They also suggested it would give users the option of booting their PCs directly into Windows 8’s desktop mode rather than having to visit the tile-based Start menu screen first.

On Tuesday the Financial Times ran a front-page story suggesting that a U-turn over key elements of Windows 8 would mark “one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago”. This was a reference to the beverage makers’ decision to launch and then abandon a new version of its fizzy drink.

The tech company has issued a statement taking issue with the report. “It is unfortunate that the Financial Times did not accurately represent the content or the context of our conversation about the good response to date on Windows 8 and the positive opportunities ahead on both Windows 8 and Windows Blue,” it said. “Our perspective is accurately reflected in many other interviews on this topic as well as in a Q&A with [chief financial officer] Tami Reller posted on the Windows blog.”

The FT told the BBC it stood by its story.

More than 1.5 billion devices used Windows 7 and earlier versions of the system at the time of Windows 8’s launch, making the OS both the most popular of its kind and one of the company’s key sources of revenue. However, Microsoft was aware that sales of tablets and other touch-controlled devices had been growing at a much faster rate than PCs.

This helped prompt it to introduce a new start screen, initially dubbed “Metro”, containing resizable tiles that could be tapped and swiped to launch and navigate apps. Users can still switch to a more traditional desktop mode by clicking on an icon, but the environment lacks the start menu button offered since Windows 95.  This caused some people to become confused about how to shut down their PC and carry out other tasks. Several third-party developers subsequently released their own software allowing users to restore the facility.

“Many people have recoiled in horror at Windows 8 because it is such a stark change over what they had become used to over the past 15 or so years,” Chris Green, principal technology analyst at consultants Davies Murphy Group Europe, told the BBC. “Unless you are using it on a brand-new computer or laptop with a touchscreen display it’s not as intuitive to use as Microsoft makes out – and these are still premium-priced products.”

Since businesses traditionally wait until at least a major service pack has come out before updating their computers to a new OS, the major impact of the changes has mostly been limited to consumers. But Mr Green added that it would be a worry for Microsoft if companies now opted to skip Windows 8 in the same way many had previously decided not to install Windows Vista.

“Microsoft wouldn’t necessarily miss out on revenue from their largest blue-chip customers because they pay an annual subscription fee for access to its tech whether they use it or not,” he said. “But it’s the mid-sized companies – who buy computers and software as they need it – which is where the big money and margins are.”

Microsoft has acknowledged that “there is a learning curve [to Windows 8] and we can work to address that,” but it also points out it has sold a similar number of licences for the OS as were achieved over the first six months of Windows 7’s life. “It’s too early to say that it’s flopped,” said Benedict Evans, a digital media specialist at research firm Enders Analysis. “However, there’s clearly a lot of pushback from consumers and corporates about the radical change the firm wants to make in the user interface. “The broader issue is that Microsoft is building an operating system designed with a touchscreen in mind. That’s essential for its future because computing is shifting to tablets and mobile, where Microsoft has been irrelevant.”

“What in effect they’ve done is compromise the desktop experience to create a great tablet and mobile experience. The problem is that it’s the desktop buyers that pay for everything right now.”