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IoT, biometry and connected cars

An ECG (electrocardiogram) is used only for measuring the health of an individual’s heart in a hospital, right? Wrong — an ECG can increasingly be used to measure whether you are fit to drive a car. Wondering how it’s done? Read on.

Most vehicle accidents happen due to human error, which are often the result of stress, tiredness or carelessness. Tremendous research is going on around the world to measure the alertness and fitness of the drivers. These measurements of the driver’s physical parameters are called biometry.

This post will concentrate on how IoT and biometric measurements of a driver will prevent impending accidents and how biometric measurements are used to control cars. Moreover, I will explain how biometry can be used to increase the security of the vehicle as a driver can be authenticated based on biometric measurements to start a vehicle and hence can act as an ignition key for a car.

What constitutes biometry measurements

There are many measurements which can be done to measure a driver’s alertness, including ECG, EEG, skin resistance measurement and steering wheel dithering measurement.

The most common biometric measurement which can be performed is voice recognition and activation technology. In addition to this, an ECG — a measurement of a heart’s healthiness — can indicate whether a person’s heart is healthy or is undergoing any kind of stress, such as blockage of arteries or blocked valves. Alternately, an EEG can measure the brain waves of the driver.

Another biometric measurement is to measure the iris of the driver; fingerprints of individuals are as unique as the iris. Along with iris measurement, the movement of the eyelids and dilation of the pupil are also measured.

Yet another biometric measurement is the skin resistance measurement. This is made when the driver holds the steering wheel and based on how he perspires, which is proportional to his stress level. Another measurement can be made at the steering wheel: how many times the driver is dithering the steering wheel.

Now about how the biometric measurements are used…

So, how can these biometric measurements be used in connected cars? The car’s inner-workings are controlled by electronics called ECUs (Electronic Control Units). A car can have many such ECUs, which are connected in a CAN (Controller Area Network) bus. ECUs can exchange data among themselves, as well get data from sensors and the driver. Driver inputs are usually through the accelerator pedal, brake pedal, and so forth. These inputs along with sensor inputs control the car.

Now, coming to biometric measurements, if a driver’s ECG is not optimal, this information will form as a sensor input to the CAN bus. The ECUs — which control the car — will take this input through the CAN bus and will act accordingly, most probably by stopping the car gracefully. This will get accomplished by sending the necessary signals to the power control unit which will cut the engine power to a minimum and activate the brakes. Along with this action, the emergency lights will be switched on to warn other drivers that the car has an emergency.

Since an iris signature is unique to an individual, it can be used to authenticate drivers. When a driver enters a car, the iris will be scanned and the signature will be extracted. That particular signature will be matched with the existing database of available and authenticated signatures stored inside the car or on the cloud. If the authentication succeeds, a message will be sent to the power control unit to start the car. The fingerprint of the driver can be used similar to iris measurement.

Along with the signature of the iris, the movement of the eyelid indicates the alertness of a driver. If the alertness level of the driver is below a certain threshold, then the same sequence described during the ECG measurement is followed.

Along with eyelid movement, skin resistance measurements also indicate the alertness of the driver and can be used to prevent accidents.

The dithering of the steering can be measured through the steering wheel angle sensor, and in turn can be used to measure the alertness of the driver.

Another important way to measure the state of the driver’s mind is an EEG, which is related to the activity of the brain. The waves emanating from the brain are measured and, based on the nature of the waves, it can be concluded whether the driver is alert, calm and fit to drive. Moreover, another use case of using the EEG is about controlling the car using the brain waves, which can be converted into commands to control various functions, such as raising or lowering the windows just by thinking about it without touching any buttons.

Another biometric measurement — voice recognition and control — can authenticate the driver and also can be used to control the car’s functions.


As described above, the IoT and biometric measurements can be used in a host of scenarios in a connected car environment. Much R&D is ongoing in biometrics associated with connected cars and many of these technologies will be part of the connected car ecosystem in the near future.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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I'm picturing the scenario where I'm lost in a bad neighborhood after midnight and the car shuts down because I'm so nervous. Tie the system to the GPS and my tax returns? IoT is a strange business.
Nice concept but it will add thousands to the cost of a new car. I have wondered what the auto industry really thinks of the autonomous cars ? What will happen to the sales of today's sports cars with 500 hp when they force you to drive the speed limit ? If it can be overridden then what the point of heading down this road ?
Hi @ToddN2000 -- Adding autonomy to the car probably costs thousands (though I think the general value added for most folks in not having to concentrate on drive time will more than offset the cost), but does adding some of the more basic biometry sensors and logic. Adding pulse sensors to the steering wheel, for example, seems like it would be small potatoes. And the bus and computer chips are already on board in the current generation of cars. It'd be interesting to know, though, what it would cost to build a car with no modern frills (airbags, power brakes, power steering...) if built at volume.