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March 13, 2017

Is M2M IoT now critical to saving lives?

Eseye CTO Ian Marsden looks at how IoT can reduce the risk of drink driving.

By Ellie Burns

A sobering thought

Drink driving is a very real danger in our society. Every year in England and Wales alone, 85,000 people are convicted, and over 3,000 either killed or seriously injured as a direct result of individuals driving under the influence.

Thirty years of government funded advertising campaigns have certainly raised awareness of the problem, yet since 2010 the UK has seen no reduction in the number of fatalities. In fact, recent research has shockingly shown one in five motorists risk driving the morning after drinking knowing they could still be over the legal limit.

Years of government budgets spent on education and awareness are clearly doing nothing to bring down the statistics. So perhaps it is time to turn to technology instead.

The EU certainly agrees; in February this year, The European Committee of the Regions called for a new EU alcohol strategy, to include the use of technology to prevent drink driving. Alcolocks, which require drivers to blow into a breathalyser which then prevents the engine from starting if they are over the limit, are being recommended as pivotal to the roll-out of the strategy.


Turning to technology

The use of alcolocks currently differs throughout Europe. For example, Finland, which has strict legislation on driving under the influence, was the first country to make alcolocks compulsory on school buses.

Meanwhile there is no such legislation enforcing alcolocks in Great Britain, although they are fitted on over 500 National Express coaches. The move came following a continued parliamentary discussion on a road safety framework involving alcohol in the workplace, with an emphasis on public transport. The initiative introduced alcohol ignition interlocks from UK business Alcolock GB into commercial vehicles and public transport.

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It sounds like a simple solution, but the connected element of the device, which is pivotal, creates a critical challenge as in order to be effective the interlock solution must guarantee a consistent and reliable cellular connection. For a company such as National Express which operates across Europe, the capacity for network roaming is also essential.

For example, the ‘USP’ for the Alcolock GB product is its immediate reporting function, submitting alerts via email or text to HQ to report any time an employee has failed a breath test. The instant alert not only informs of the negative test, but also the reading given. This function of the technology is heavily reliant on strong network coverage, to ensure all negative tests are reported and dealt with immediately. However, providing this roaming capability has been an industry-wide problem for some time.

drink driving 2

Free to roam

The complexities of connected devices have long been a reason why many businesses don’t even start to deploy Internet of Things (IoT) projects. Far too often, growing companies operating in different locations suffer from issues with connectivity – leaving them at risk of down time. Loss of connectivity can be incredibly frustrating, but when the purpose of a connected device is to detect alcohol in somebody ready to drive a vehicle, it instantly becomes life critical.

Using Eseye’s AnyNet SIM, which has the ability to roam across networks no matter which geographical location the device moves through, was therefore vital for Alcolock GB. This technology provided an independent and completely agnostic network of networks that allows routing onto the vast majority of cellular network operators around the world. The embedded SIM card can then provide truly global coverage without Alcolock GB customers (such as National Express) needing to set up or even think about local connection deals with operators – it’s a key industry differentiator and one which will save lives.

The added business benefit to reliable network roaming capabilities is the ability to normalise the behaviour and cost of the connected devices wherever they are in the world, without the concern of coverage or inflated rates.

The connected Alcolock GB products don’t sit exclusively within vehicles though; many are also deployed around the country, mounted on depot walls. This means readings can be gained from drivers before they even enter a vehicle – eradicating any danger before a vehicle is even is use.


Let IoT save lives

With Department for Transport statistics showing 14 per cent of all road deaths in the UK are a result of drivers under the influence of alcohol, drink driving is a problem which continues to dominate the agenda of transport safety experts.

The Council of the EU is set to debate road safety, and the wider implementation of alcolocks, at the end of March this year, and authorities have warned that such a measure is vital to reduce road deaths.

These warnings from industry specialists, coupled with technical experts able to demonstrate a proven solution, beg the question; why do vehicles still enable people to drive over the limit, when there’s technology to prevent it?

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