Brendan Digney is an electrical engineering student in Queen's University in Belfast. He grew up on a farm and has invented a new automatic safety device for use on tractors, plant, and heavy machinery.
“People get the wrong impression of an electrical engineer,” said Brendan - who has won numerous awards for his idea. “We do a lot of software work and deal a lot with sensor systems,” he explained.
From that, the potential for the technology became apparent to innovator and with encouragement from the University, he decided to do something about it.
Brendan has invented a new safety motoring system called ‘Machine Eye’. He started working with a collaborative team to get the idea off the ground.
The partners have since changed but there is still a team of partners working to support the idea.
How it works
The bespoke sensor package works to monitor the environment around the machine all the time. It does exactly as the name describes, in that it is a sensor that is mounted on your machine.
“If you imagine, we are effectively conducting a continuous risk assessment that’s analysing what the machine is doing and what are the people around the machine also doing,” he explained.
There can be a lot of what Brendan calls ‘noise’ around the machine from livestock and running engines and the Machine Eye inventor doesn’t want the sensor to trigger due to those factors.
For this reason, the team apply quite a lot of artificial intelligence to discern what is in the frame of reference around the machine, be it a human or another animal. Based on the results of that, the team are then only concerned about the human.
If the sensor detects that if the human is behaving in such a manner that, combined with the conditions of the machine, could lead to risk, an alert is raised, and the Machine Eye will take over.
For the less-technically-minded, the example Brendan gives makes it much easier to understand.
He suggests thinking about a slurry tanker and pump that is in operation; standing still with the power shaft turning.
If somebody is walking by in a manner that it looks like the person may come into contact with the PTO, the shaft will automatically stop turning, thereby avoiding any potential danger.
This happens because the sensor will have detected the hazard and an alert will be sent to the machine using a state-of-the-art software called ‘Edge Processing’, that has only become possible in the past year or two due to technological advancement.
All the decisions are made using Brendan’s team’s own algorithms onboard the machine. It is a learning algorithm that has to learn and understand the conditions that it is working in.
The sensor sits unobtrusively on the machine. “In an ideal world, you should never see this work,” said Brendan, “but if it does, it cuts in and provides a last means of protection.”
This mechanism is not a way to replace the need to act responsibly, it’s a means to augment the user during times when accidents would usually occur.
There is still a patent pending GB on the Machine Eye; however, Queens University and a number of other organisations have taken a keen interest in the idea.
Brendan hopes to see the product hit the market in early 2021, but he insists that he is in no rush to push it out quickly, we have to put these units out across the country to gain background experience.
“We are cautious that we are making a safety device, so we want to be completely happy with it,” he said.
"It has the potential to have an impact on a lot of people and we want as many people as possible to achieve that impact” concluded Brendan.
- The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition - Innovation Winner
- Santander Enterprise Awards - UK Finalist
- Queen's University Dragons Den - Winner
- INVENT 2018 Winner - Electronics
- INVENT 2018: Student Finals - Audience Choice Winner
- Farm Safety Partnership - Innovation award winner
- National Ploughing Championships Innovation Arena - One-to-watch
- National Ploughing Championships Innovation Arena - Safety Innovation Winner
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Image Source: Machine Eye \ Facebook