Henry Morgan, Sales Development Manager of Brigade Electronics PLC, discusses how the new Brigade Fusion and its sensor fusion technology is providing unrivalled layers of safety and protection for worksites.
1. Brigade Fusion was unveiled to the industry at Bauma 2022. What was the motivation behind creating this system?
Traditional detection systems have been designed to report the location of a person or an object from the vehicle based on distance. This is useful on some occasions such as parking, when the driver needs to know the distance to stop, but they provide no reference to risk.
With fixed detection zones, an operator needs to compromise on the distances for alerts. For example, if 6 metres is selected, it might be too long when the machine is moving slowly in a congested area, resulting in lots of nuisance alerts, and too short when moving quickly in an open area, perhaps not providing sufficient warning. Clearly, traditional detection systems aren’t ideal where the machines operating speed varies, such as construction sites and quarries where vehicles might move slowly in some areas due to congestion, but more quickly in other areas that are more open.
With higher resolution radar, it became possible for software to track objects and determine the closing speed, i.e. “time to impact”. So, an object that is further away, but moving quickly towards a vehicle might have a shorter time to impact (and much higher risk) compared to an object that is closer but stationary. Add to this the ability to map areas of risk based on speed, it has become possible to use the radar to alert the operator of the risk level of a detected object rather than distance, though when stationary and ready to move, distance is important.
That makes it much more valuable to machine operators because it gives risk level alerts when they need it. Meaningful alerts eliminate alarm fatigue and helps operators navigate through congested areas. False alerts from a fixed detection distance system inevitably increase risk, particularly when an operator ignores an alert in a location where he always gets them because of a fixed object but, unknown, a person is nearby!
Brigade Fusion can be adapted to every situation rather than a fixed parameter. The huge benefit of this is we can make it as simple or as detailed as a company or operation requires and tailor it to different worksites to optimise effectiveness.
2. How long has the system been in development?
We started developing Brigade Fusion in 2018 following the introduction of CAN radar. We worked with an OEM, initially with preventing movement from stationary, alerts and, for speeds below 6mp/h, stop signal to the machine. Calculations for these were based on detection distances, machine speed and operator reaction time.
3. Can you tell us more about how Brigade Fusion has been trialled?
To create as many different scenarios as possible for the system, we went through a proof of concept using three different machine types – an excavator, a wheel loader and a haul truck. The trials were carried out at a US test site over four weeks, and this allowed us to make the necessary modifications required for the system to respond to real-life situations. Since then, we have developed the front end of the software so it is installer friendly with fixed menus and can be easily configured to map the customer’s area of risk and the location of the radar.
During the trial, we used up to eight radar providing 360-degree detection round the vehicle. Because we know where each radar device is positioned, and the area they are covering, the system detects and reports the position of a single object, even if detected by multiple radar sensors
We also tested Fusion machine to machine. We are now in the final stages of testing on a very complex site that has numerous challenges and we have been extremely pleased with the results.
4. How was the product received at BAUMA in Germany and CONEXPO in Las Vegas?
There was a huge amount of interest at both exhibitions. What we did not expect is that some of the opportunities had not been envisaged. The beauty of Fusion is it is possible, with a little bit of software configuration, to integrate it with a variety of systems to provide a bespoke solution to meet a customer’s specific needs. For example, for the rail industry.
5. How do you think Brigade Fusion will change the future of worksite safety for the mining and construction industries?
Until now, off road detection systems have been based on object distance. However, with Brigade Fusion the operator alerts are based on risk level. Areas of risk can be defined for up to six speed ranges and each detection is tracked to determine the length of time before a collision occurs. This provides relevant alerts, minimising alarm fatigue caused by the false positives of systems which only detect distance.
Brigade Fusion has the flexibility to include whatever the customer needs to deliver the solution they require, including integrating with existing hardware and devices already fitted to the OEM’s machines.
In addition to being tailored for specific needs, Brigade Fusion will have an off-the-shelf solution for the aftermarket that allows the customer to adjust the configuration to meet their requirements.
For further information about Brigade and our range of commercial vehicle safety products, please contact us.