Centenary University’s competitive business team Enactus earned the school its first patent for a fatigue alert device to be worn on the wrist to detect drowsiness in truck drivers and other motorists.
Students have been working on the now-patented Shieldz Wearable Technologies device, announced by the university Nov. 16, since 2016.
“We were ecstatic when we heard that the patent had been approved,” said Linda Poisseroux, assistant professor of business and director of Enactus. “This was a very long time coming. Our students worked hard on developing the product and then pursuing the patent process.”
At the project’s onset, the Enactus team contacted a trucking company to explore interest in a product made to battle drowsy driving and potentially reduce accidents and deaths on the road.
While working on the prototype, students found a technology to emulate and transformed it into a wearable device. According to the university, the wristband detects electro-dermal activity changes in skin conduction, temperature, and sweat to gauge states of fatigue.
“As we moved forward, we realized it wasn’t just truckers who would find this product useful,” said Poisseroux. “It would also be helpful for people who work swing shifts, medical workers, airline pilots, train conductors, police officers, and others.”
A $2,500 grant from AIG and a $5,000 prize won at the Ford Mobility Challenge have helped to fund ongoing development.
The patent application process was not without challenges. As of December, the Enactus team wasn’t sure they’d get it at all, according to the university. But now several students have their name on the patent, as does Poisseroux: Kyle Maris ’17, Colin Hudson ’19, Heriberto Medina Jr. ’20, and Jeff Rottingen.
Next, the university will decide consequent steps for the patent, which could include further prototyping to advance the product, licensing, or its outright sale.
“Centenary students are so self-motivated,” Poisseroux said. “There’s a startup kind of energy here. Students are very hands-on and have a lot of grit. I am so proud Centenary can give students these kinds of opportunities.”