State Farm Patents Wearable Device System That Could Poke Drowsy Or Distracted Drivers

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Unfortunately, we don’t all carry little elves on our person who can administer a hefty poke when we need to snap to attention. State Farm is working on a way to solve that issue with a patent for a wearable device system that can alert drivers who might be nodding off, distracted, or intoxicated behind the wheel.

The insurance company has dreamed up a wearable computing device capable of alerting drivers with a physical nudge or maybe a vibration, if the person is showing signs of being ill-prepared to drive, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The system could also take a look at patterns in your trips over time and then make suggestions, like “drinking a caffeinated beverage shortly before operating the vehicle at high impairment times,” the patent said.

Users would receive information and alerts through smart watches, wireless headsets, computer-enhanced glasses or clothing. The patent lays out a system of optic sensors to catch things like nodding heads and how long it’s taking you between blinks, which would then be used to calculate a drowsiness score.

“As our industry and the needs of our customers continue to change, State Farm strives to be a leading innovator within the insurance marketplace,” a spokeswoman told the Tribune. “As part of this process, it’s important that State Farm protects its ideas through patent filings, and the patent process allows us to further research ideas to determine how we can better serve our customers, as well as improve vehicle safety.”

She declined to comment on whether information collected by the devices, like the drowsiness score, would factor into customers’ insurance rates.

While State Farm and others in the insurance world are looking into such technology, it’s not like the industry is the first to venture into wearable territory, which is also a somewhat murky territory when it comes to privacy concerns. An insurer tracking drivers’ physiology could be a tough row to hoe.

“While no one is against making distracted driving less frequent, State Farm has its work cut out for it getting its policyholders to accept sensors that collect very personal — physical and physiological — data,” Donald Light, director of the North America property and casualty insurance practice of financial technology consulting firm Celent told the Tribune.

State Farm patents product that could poke drowsy drivers [Chicago Tribune]

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