Jérôme Wertz
2015, Belgium
Improving health and safety with eyeglasses that measure drowsiness

Developed a software that measures drowsiness

Falling asleep at the wheel is the cause of one in every five traffic accidents, and is of particular concern where mass transportation and heavy machinery are involved. Approximately 10% of the general population suffers from sleep related disorders which increases the risk of these types of accidents. To mitigate this, the young innovator Jérôme Wertz has developed a pair of glasses capable of measuring just how drowsy the user is at any given time.

The device, created by Wertz´s company Phasya consists of a high-frequency camera encrusted within the glasses´ frame. This camera captures images of the eye and sends them to a computer, which in turn processes these images and measures the level of drowsiness of the individual according to predetermined physiological ocular parameters.

The advantages of the system developed by this young engineer lies in the ability to measure these parameters objectively, automatically, in real time and under different lighting conditions. For now its principal application is to supply laboratories specialized in research related to sleep and safety with a tool which allows them to monitor the levels of drowsiness or alertness of the test subjects, though there are plans to expand into other markets with greater social impact.

When the algorithm detects that the user has surpassed a certain threshold of drowsiness, this could trigger a system of alarms, either audible, tactile or both, which would return the user to an alert state. Accident avoided.

This product arose from long term research carried out at the University of Liège (Belgium).  To give birth to this innovation, Wertz began by developing algorithms that calculate the position of the eyelids and an additional series of ocular parameters using the images obtained by a high-speed camera.

In collaboration with doctors specializing in sleep disorders and cognitive psychologists, Wertz was able to produce a software program capable of determining the level of drowsiness using the data from the analysis of the images captured by the camera. These advances allowed him to co-found Phaysa in December, 2014, a spin-off company that began to commercialize the final product starting last March.

Since then Phasya looks after opportunities to integrate its technology in cars, where “a camera placed on the dashboard captures the images of the driver´s eyes  and the software installed in the car´s onboard computer processes them,” Wertz explains. It would also be viable to install this design in certain industrial vehicles, the desks of security personnel, and air traffic control towers, amongst many others.

“There are many companies designing wearables, especially intelligent glasses,” the engineer adds. “If these devices can provide ocular activity data, our software can be incorporated into them.”

For the founder of Access2Europe Wytze Russchen, jury member for MIT Technology Review´s Innovators Under 35 Belgian Edition awards, Jérôme Wertz´s technology “will be of great use to society, and is an example of how a long development process and continuous improvement can make idealistic innovation a reality.”