Working as a miner is an arduous job with long hours, and the risk of injury is high, particularly when workers are tired. A few years ago, when Rio Tinto was looking to reduce accidents, it turned to Vancouver’s Fatigue Science, which has developed a system for monitoring sleep and predicting alertness. Using that data, Rio Tinto issued a new rule preventing workers who have been awake for more than 14 hours from operating machinery, and claims to have eliminated fatigue-related injuries.
After six years working with corporate and military clients, Fatigue Science is now preparing to tackle the consumer market.
“Our challenge is, we haven’t really wanted to play in that space too much,” says founder Pat Byrne. But he has received numerous requests from individuals hoping to buy its system, and the company aims to have a consumer offering by the end of the year.
The Vancouver Canucks were early clients. Due to time differences, West Coast sports teams have brutal travel schedules, disrupting sleep. But Fatigue Science could tell players precisely when to sleep to ensure they were alert for, say, a game across the country in a week’s time. The team was so impressed, it secured exclusive rights for two years to prevent other NHL teams from using it.
Byrne founded the company after his nephew died in a car crash upon falling asleep at the wheel. In his research, he learned about U.S. military software that measures sleep data to estimate fatigue and predict cognitive acuity. “It can tell pretty accurately exactly how you’re going to perform,” Byrne says. He bought the software and paired it with what the company calls the Readiband—a watch band with a built-in accelerometer to measure rest cycles.
The consumer market might be trickier, however. There are a number sleep-tracking devices out there already, and Zeo, an early pioneer, went out of business this year. Byrne isn’t worried, given the Fatigue Science’s track record with clients and the fact it has data to back up its claims. “There are a lot of gadgets out there, but none of them have any real science behind them,” he says.