Editor's Desk

Fatigue alert tech earns record revenue

Canberra-based Seeing Machines is forecasting revenue for the full year ended June 2016 of $33.6 million – a 78 per cent rise from the previous financial year’s total of $18.9 million.

These figures exclude a $2.4 million research and development tax incentive received from the Australian Government as a refund on its eligible expenditure in the past financial year.

The growth was driven by a deal with Caterpillar (Cat), which involved a one-off licence fee payment of $21.8 million.

In September 2015, Seeing Machines signed an exclusive partnership agreement with Cat for the use of one of its products, Driver Safety System (DSS), in the vocational fields of mining, construction, quarrying, forestry and others.

Under the terms of the deal, Cat took over all costs and commercial responsibilities for the manufacturing, marketing, sales, field support and remote monitoring of the DSS product.

On top of the licence fee, Seeing Machines also receives between 10 to 20 per cent of each unit sold. This saw it earn royalties of $USD400,000 ($AUD527,000) and $USD150,000 ($AUD198,000) in the first and second quarters of 2016 respectively.

“The agreement with Caterpillar is a classic ‘win/win’,” Seeing Machines COO Paul Angelatos told Quarry.

“Caterpillar has the rights to our world leading driver monitoring safety technology which they in turn offer to their customers in a number of industrial fields.

“Caterpillar have for decades been a leader in safety technology and this deal helps to cement that reputation.

“For Seeing Machines, it means that we can now distribute and support our products through a global network of dealers.”

Driver monitoring

Development for the DSS began in 1999 with the first mining customer deploying the finished product in 2008.

The technology uses vision-based driver monitoring, which involves a camera continuously observing and interpreting driver head, face and eye behaviour. It also tracks their gaze in real time to determine where they are looking.

The device has health and safety applications in sectors that use off-road vehicles, such as quarrying, because it can detect if a driver is becoming sleepy by monitoring eyelid activity and can wake them up to avoid accidents at the wheel. In the future it may even predict when they will fall asleep.

It also knows if a driver’s attention is dangerously diverted and can even recognise crucial mental and physical impairment, according to information on the company’s website.

Cat channel manager Jeremy Terpstra told Quarry that not a lot of staff training is needed when setting up the equipment.

“The DSS is non-intrusive and requires no interaction from vehicle operators – they get in and drive as they normally would,” he said.

“Leading up to the deployment of the technology, Seeing Machines has developed operator, technician and management training plans that ensure maximum value is extracted from an organisation’s investment to improve safety through the use of DSS.”

As of 1 August, Seeing Machines had 164 employees, including 115 in Australia, and locations overseas in the US and Chile.

Angelatos said the largest Cat customer in Australia is BHP-Billiton, which runs iron ore mines.

“BHP-Billiton were an early adopter of the technology and have been a leader in the mining industry in relation to fatigue management,” he added.

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