Preventative vs responsive drowsiness technology

When describing Optalert’s products to customers, I often use the word preventative along with ‘predictive’, ‘real-time’ and ‘anticipatory’. It is these words that set our technology apart from others.

One word I seldom use is ‘responsive’.

While we might appreciate the latter in terms of something that responds quickly to a need or error, all too often ‘quickly’ simply isn’t fast enough. There is a real difference between responsive technology and preventative technology.


Let’s start with a few simple definitions:

Responsive: (adj.) In response; reacting quickly and positively

Preventative: (adj.) Designed to keep something undesirable from occurring

Responsive applications

Responsive technology does just that: responds to a scenario… but only when an anomaly, irregularity, or need is detected.

Sometimes, a shrill alarm or audio cue can shake us out of our drowsy slumber, but what if that alert is too late?

Responsive technology relies on a trigger from the subject in order to be activated: think a car (the subject) veering off its marked lanes or a driver (the subject) taking their hands off the steering wheel.

How does responsive technology measure drowsiness?

Various apps and products claim to responsively detect driver drowsiness resulting in alarms or alerts. But what cues do they use to determine that a driver is susceptible to a fatigue-related incident? Two of the most common signs they look out for are head movement and hand placement.

However moving your head or removing your hands from the wheel – while sometimes unwise – are not definitive signs that a driver is experiencing fatigue behind the wheel.

These apps and devices work from back-to-front: their technology helps wake up drowsy drivers that may have already slipped into a microsleep – but is that too little too late?

The ambiguity around ‘real-time’

Last year, we wrote a blog post about “anti-sleep” apps and alarms, which promise to offer real-time solutions to combat drowsiness and falling asleep behind the wheel. However there is a great deal of ambiguity when these apps claim to offer ‘real-time’ protection. When these apps talk about ‘real-time’, they are really talking about real-time action rather than real-time – and therefore predictive – monitoring.

Real time action or response means that the app or product will only begin to combat what has already occurred. Real-time monitoring, on the other hand, has the edge as it shifts from action (when a car skids off the road, for example) to prevention (the technology provides a warning before the car has started veering off-road).

Preventative drowsiness detection

Preventative drowsiness technology aims to avoid this ambiguity and response (based somewhat on assumption) by monitoring and displaying to a driver in real-time his or her current state of alertness. It does not display the state only when a driver starts to become drowsy.

Consistent, gradual, and regular notifications, combined with a consistent display of a user’s alertness level, replace the more sudden responses common with other tools.

How does preventative technology measure drowsiness?

Optalert’s technology is the world’s first and only scientifically-validated method proven to accurately measure a user’s level of alertness and drowsiness. The glasses component of the system measures the movement and speed of a driver’s eyelid an astonishing rate of 500 times a second.

Continuous monitoring helps a driver better understand that no matter how they feel, they can’t accurately self-assess their drowsiness levels. Those who use our system report how surprised they are when the device reveals their drowsiness score, even when they feel fine.


Optalert is also pleased to provide licensing opportunities to allow car manufacturers to embed our technology into a car’s dashboard, removing the need for the Optalert glasses.

By combining our patented technology with a car’s camera, car manufactures all over the world can offer in-built drowsiness detection to their customers, dramatically reducing the risk of a fatigue-related accident.

With Optalert’s technology focussing on the driver, we can, for the first time, have in-built technology that focuses on both the driver and the car. Read more about Optalert’s licensing opportunities in this blog post.