Waving your children goodbye on the school bus can be a daunting experience, without the knowledge that they’ve arrived safely for their lessons each morning. This was a situation I regularly found myself in a few years ago as a father to two young children, and as a result, I decided to take advantage of the growing Internet of Things trend and create a connected solution that would help dispel mine and other parents’ fears.
Bus travel in France is on the rise, particularly in the context of French labour legislation, the Macron Law, which has revolutionised the transport sector by simplifying many old regulations. However, as the number of vehicles on French roads has increased, so too has the number of accidents, with the Government under growing pressure to improve safety standards and reduce death tolls. In the event of a road traffic collision, children tend to huddle over, often jamming their seat belts and trapping them in their seats. After accidents occur however, passengers are advised to get out of the vehicle as quickly as possible – any longer than two minutes increases the likelihood of injury or death.
Introducing the smart seat belt
Taking all of these factors into account, I wanted to create a connected seat belt solution that on any normal day could track a school bus and inform parents of its arrival time or any delays via a mobile app. At the same time, operators could oversee their fleet of buses to track journey times and distances in real-time. In the event of a collision, the seat belt could alert the emergency services, guide them to the location of the bus and provide images of the accident to dictate what type of assistance would be required. Most importantly, it would include an emergency cutting system, which would allow the seat belt to be released in just a few seconds, enabling everyone to get out as quickly as possible and reducing the risk of injury or death.
We worked closely with Aquila Technologies, a startup and expert in connected devices and on-board intelligent systems, to develop the smart seat belt. We connected embedded technologies (a GPS device, sensors and the belt cutting system) with a centralised web portal and mobile app. The web portal is used to monitor information in real-time, with the app being used to inform parents of their children’s whereabouts. A central control box, equipped with sensors (tracking collision, smoke and heat data), is used to activate the seat belt cutting system, either from the bus or remotely, and open the bus doors, freeing passengers who may be trapped.
While we’re still in the proof of concept stage, we’re really pleased with the progress we’ve made so far in creating a connected solution that is designed to help save lives. We recently won a safety award at the Connected Objects Awards 2016 and we’re already in discussions with major transport operators across Europe to bring this to life. While it’s been designed with buses in mind, there is no reason why in time, it couldn’t be rolled out across all vehicles where seatbelt use is compulsory. Watch this space!