By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The U.S. trucking industry is vital to the nation’s economy. Trucks move more than 70 percent of the country’s cargo and the industry employs more than 7 million people.
Nearly half of those people are driving the trucks. Driving a truck is tough; turnover rates can exceed 90 percent. With the average trucker putting in as much as 70 hours in an eight-day workweek, fatigue behind the wheel is a significant challenge to the job. An estimated 100,000 or more crashes per year are attributed to driver drowsiness and fatigue.
About three years ago, a group of socially committed OU graduates founded a startup, BlyncSync (blink-sink), to improve safety and operating efficiency for those millions of men and women working so hard behind the wheel.
“Our whole goal,” said Austin Green, BlyncSync CEO, “is to be on the driver’s side, to provide tools and incentives that help drivers be better drivers and build mutually beneficial relationships between drivers and dispatchers.”
BlyncSync is developing a safety software platform that is a centralized hub for smart wearable devices (think Internet of Things and machine learning technology).
“We will be the hub for devices that capture biometric data,” Green said, “for example watches or bands that measure activity and heart rate, smart hard hats, smart safety glass, or other devices that have contact with the users’ skin.”
BlyncSync gained early momentum as a participant in OU’s Sooner Launch Pad. The startup was also selected as a finalist in the transportation category at last year’s SXSW pitch competition in Austin, Texas.
Working with i2E to build a scalable business plan, Green and the other company co-founders have talked to more than 150 people in the trucking industry.
“About 50 percent of those were drivers,” Green said. “Driver turnover rates very high. There is a driver shortage. We want to reduce turnover and insurance rates by improving safety and drivers’ experience on the job. We are in discussion with companies in the insurance industry about how our safety platform can help reduce the risk of accidents.”
BlyncSync’s first initiative is an application to measure and report truck driver fatigue in real time and predictively via safety glasses that capture blinks. “Yawning, head tilts (nodding off), and blinking are the body’s warning signs,” Green said. “Blink rate, a reliable predictor of fatigue, is more accurate and less intrusive to drivers than the in-cab camera systems that are commonly used today.”
BlyncSync is beginning its first pilot program with five trucking companies in Oklahoma and other states. “We are in a great place, being in Oklahoma,” said Green. “This state is such a big hub for shipping. It’s a great place to start our company.”
Oklahoma is a great place to start a company. At i2E, working with young companies like BlyncSync from idea through market validation and beyond, gives us all the proof we need.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at. i2E_Comments@i2E.org.