School BUSRide spoke with Kevin Moore, CEO of SOBRsafe™, about touch-based alcohol detection and the difference it can make for school transportation
Kevin Moore, Chief Executive Officer, said that for he and SOBRsafe™, child safety represents a chance to make a societal difference with breakthrough technology.
Originally formed by venture capital firm First Capital Ventures, and merged with a detection technology development company, SOBRsafe is at its core a technology and data platform for touch-based alcohol detection – and it is coming to school buses.
“We brought a lot of previously successful people together as the leadership at SOBRsafe,” Moore said. “And one of the key elements for that leadership is to make a difference with this company. We are all at the point in our lives where we want to leave a generational legacy – and child safety is an area where we can make a significant social impact.”
Moore said that American school transportation lacks tools to fully prevent impaired driving, through no fault of the districts and schools themselves. With current capabilities and requirements, alcohol impairment can often go untracked at school bus operations – or tracked with very limited or random screening techniques.
“Every parent treasures their child’s safety,” Moore said, “so we asked ourselves, ‘What if we had a solution that screens 100 percent of bus drivers before they can receive keys and operate a bus?’”
After a lengthy research and development period, SOBRsafe is launching SOBRcheck™ for access control, a patent-pending, proprietary device that provides touch-based identity verification and alcohol detection via a “go/no go” methodology.
When a human ingests alcohol, one of the ways it leaves the body is via transdermal expiration – through the skin. The SOBRcheck™ device does not provide a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reading, instead detecting the presence of alcohol in Zero Tolerance situations – like a school bus operation.
The system further functions as a driver/vehicle authenticator by beaming light onto a driver’s skin and creating a set of data points. Those data points then act as that driver’s unique identification. Moore said that this helps alleviate privacy concerns, as the device is not recording fingerprints.
Furthermore, the information that the device collects is immediately transmitted to supervisors via a user-friendly app. This process, Moore said, allows transportation managers, operation managers, and other supervisors to make proactive decisions as opposed to reactive corrections.
“This is the sort of tool which will not only allow school transportation departments to keep children safe, but also provide parents with peace of mind about their child on the bus,” Moore said. “We see preemptive alcohol detection as a critical need for school buses, and feel this device is a phenomenal way to fulfill that need. Systems like this can be essential to ensure that school buses are substance-free environments.”
A unique model
Moore said that SOBRsafe’s intellectual property is currently focused on alcohol detection, but the company is exploring technology centered around detection of cannabis, opioids, and other illicit drugs – as driven by employer need and market demand.
“The key to SOBRsafe is that we are not out developing technologies that require years of testing before commercialization,” Moore said. “We are an integrator of technologies. So, in addition to our internal alcohol detection development, we are looking for other commercially-ready technologies that might work within our system architecture.”
In addition to pursuing other substance detection solutions, Moore said that SOBRsafe is continuing to develop additional value-added features for its devices. The company is launching a new employee health and wellness platform soon, and is implementing GPS location, temperature checks, and more physiology-based technology into its devices for future deployments.
“There is a tremendous amount of emerging technology that can provide a huge benefit for schools and transportation operations,” he said. “We just have to find it, prove its effectiveness, and integrate it into our solutions.”
Deploying to school buses
Moore said that SOBRsafe moved through several prototypes and multiple human trials of the SOBRcheck device, as refining the technology’s various algorithms and detection processes is an exacting, time-consuming task. This was especially so in the wake of the nation’s COVID-19 shutdowns, extending the time required for effective pilot programs.
Once the current round of “production tooling” is complete, the company will launch another pilot program – and then go to market for school districts in the second quarter of 2021.
“We are accelerating the intervention process for school districts,” he said. “Driving under the influence is a serious matter, and intervention can reduce accidents, litigation, deaths, and operating costs.”
More than anything, Moore said, the company’s core objective is safety and saving lives, with child safety at the forefront.
“The feedback we are getting is extremely positive because there is a need in pupil transportation that has not been properly addressed with legacy technology,” Moore said. “When supervisors can proactively make critical decisions by using this data, it is going to improve productivity and save lives.”