Brigade Backsense Solutions Make Job Sites Safer
Between 2011 and 2020, 63% of fatal injuries to workers at road construction sites were caused by the worker being struck by a vehicle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This includes construction equipment operating within the work zone.
That’s why Brigade Electronics, Portland, Indiana, has spent decades developing technology to eliminate blind spots and provide real-time alerts to drivers and equipment operators when there is potential for a collision.
“Identifying humans is always the biggest concern. You can always repair a bent fender, but you can’t always repair an injured human.”—Corey Heniser
“While passive systems, such as mirrors and cameras, do help the driver to spot people and objects in blind spots, utilizing proactive technology that site managers can rely on to provide reliable alerts, no matter the conditions, are key to protecting the lives of road construction workers,” said Brigade CEO Corey Heniser.
Brigade offers a number of passive and active systems, including individual, multiple and 360-degree camera solutions; ultrasonic and radar obstacle detection; wearable RFID devices for crew members; and video recording solutions. The company also launched its first 360-degree artificial intelligence (AI) camera, SidescanPredict, in November 2021.
Several Camera Systems
With a Backsense® radar or ultrasonic obstacle detection system, paired with Backeye®360 or other heavy-duty camera monitoring system, Brigade’s line of safety solutions can identify people and objects, whether stationary or moving, and provide the operator with in-cab visual and audible alerts.
With one or multiple cameras, the operator will be able to see the view from each camera. With Backsense®360, the operator will see on the screen in the cab both an overhead view of their vehicle and surroundings and one of four camera angles, based on direction of travel or use of turn signals.
Back when Brigade first began offering a 360-degree solution eight years ago, Heniser said it was too expensive to justify its use on anything but the most expensive equipment. However, technological advancements have made the solution comparable in price and ease of use to Brigade’s multi-camera setup. With the 360-degree solution, Heniser said, “You get the best of both worlds.”
Brigade’s approach to audible alerts differs from the usual backup alarms, instead relying on multi-frequency alarms using a broadband sound (BBS) backup alarm, also known as a white sound backup alarm.
Rather than the traditional ‘beep’ of tonal alarms, these alarms create a ‘ssh-ssh’ sound that is loudest in the direction of vehicle travel and dissipates quickly. “The result is that when a vehicle is coming toward you, you know it’s coming toward you,” Heniser said. “If it’s moving away from you, it’s not nearly as noticeable. But, you’re not in the danger area so no action is required.”
Heniser said this can reduce worker desensitization to backup alarms, since they are hearing them less frequently and usually only in situations in which they should take action. This type of system can also help reduce noise complaints related to backup alarms, for example, if you’re paving in a residential neighborhood early in the morning.
However, the white sound still meets all alarm volume requirements. “Our solutions have a microphone built in that will make sure the alarm adjusts itself automatically to be 5 decibels louder than the ambient noise,” Heniser said.
Choose the Right Solution
Heniser said the right Brigade solution depends on the vehicle and its applications. “It would be nice to have one solution that fits all,” he said, “but every customer type and vehicle type has different problems.”
For example, the ultrasonic solution is common for on-road vehicles where it’s only used at low speeds as a parking assistant. For vehicles moving at higher speeds or those with larger tires (therefore covering more ground per tire rotation), Heniser recommends the radar solution.
“The faster a vehicle moves, the longer the range needs to be to predict and stop an accident from occurring,” he said. Brigade’s radar solution offers a range of 15-20 feet off the shelf, with a programmable version that can operate at ranges 30-50 feet out, versus 10-12 feet for the ultrasonic solution.
Other factors to consider when selecting a solution include the direction of movement, how frequently a vehicle turns, and what else is operating nearby. “All those factors come into play,” Heniser said, both in terms of camera systems and obstacle detection.
“If backing is the only problem, then we can have a single camera application and tie a radar to that,” he said. Or, if a haul truck carrying asphalt only needs extra help when backing to the paver, the ultrasonic sensors may suffice. “It really depends on the customer’s needs.”
The Next Frontier(s)
Brigade’s latest safety innovation is its AI camera solution, Sidescan® Predict.
“If an individual’s crossing [between the backing haul truck and the paver] trying to beat the two coming together, we can actually put a box around that individual [on the monitor in the haul truck] and give a different warning to the driver,” Heniser said. “We have three ranges programmed behind the camera, so [the system] will give you a green, yellow or red warning along with the corresponding audio frequency change.”
Not only does this elevate the most significant obstacle to avoid (people), but it also eliminates the need for a sensor at all.
Brigade is also working on a system that uses sensor fusion technology to combine Brigade’s range of safety devices to predict collisions and alert operators. “[Fusion] takes a lot of these individual components and networks them together so it can go one step further to offer vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent collisions,” Heniser said.
The company is also working on autonomous features, such as active warnings that take action automatically. For example, applying the brakes to prevent a collision if needed. “Those [technologies] will eventually filter down into everyday on-road and off-road vehicles,” Heniser said.
Although the technology may advance over time, Brigade’s goal remains the same, whether a customer deploys a single camera or an entire vehicle-to-vehicle networked solution: making the road construction job site safer.
It’s also possible to add a mobile digital recorder to any Brigade camera system. “We can record all the footage coming across the monitor, with a timestamp, and that’s admissible in court,” Heniser said. The system also tracks triggered events, saving a short clip leading up to and following an event—for example, a hard G-force braking event. When a triggered event occurs, the customer can set it up for certain employees to be notified.