Page 1

Melbourne sleep expert Murray Johns markets his drowsiness monitor Optalert | The ...

Page 1 of 2

The Australian Melbourne sleep expert Murray Johns markets his drowsiness monitor Optalert • ENTREPRENEUR: Morris Kaplan • From: The Australian • March 20, 2010 12:00AM

Recommend

0

Be the first of your friends to recommend this.

tweet

AT an age when most people would be nurturing their nest egg, seeking to protect it from the ravages of markets, medical practitioner Murray Johns spent a big chunk of his on a risky entrepreneurial venture. In 2002, aged 62, Johns retired from clinical practice and committed time and capital to developing and commercialising Optalert, a device that warns heavy vehicle drivers when they are becoming drowsy. Johns is a Melbourne sleep expert who has spent the past 15 years developing and perfecting his invention to the point where it is now being actively marketed. Demand for the personal safety device is growing with orders from transport and mining companies in Asia, Africa, South America and Australia, including BHP Billiton and Toll Holdings. The Optalert technology, validated by Monash University Accident Research Centre, is based on patented algorithms that measure and predict drowsiness according to a universal scale. Drowsiness on the roads is a serious problem. National Transport Commission research recently published by Vic Roads indicates that up to 30 per cent of truck fatalities and 52 per cent of major crash insurance claims are related to drowsy drivers. The research also indicates that 28 per cent of heavy vehicle licence holders reported having fallen asleep while driving. The device looks like a normal pair of sunglasses but emits and detects low levels of infrared light to sense movements in the eyes and eyelids. These movements are fed into a tiny computer that measures a driver's drowsiness and sounds an alarm as soon as the movements show the driver is becoming drowsy. The claim is that the device is the world's first scientifically proven real-time system to measure and predict the risk of driver fatigue. It takes the guesswork out of driver fatigue as the system continually monitors the driver's level of alertness and warns both the driver and the manager when the first signs of fatigue are detected. "Fatigue is relieved by rest and inactivity, but that makes drowsiness worse," says Johns. Performance failures because of drowsiness, including road crashes, can occur with the driver's eyes open or closed. He says they are more likely to happen at night because of a circadian rhythm of drowsiness. Drowsiness is the intermediate state between alert wakefulness and sleep and causes lack of awareness of the here and now. "That is what makes drowsy driving so dangerous. Fatigue is a behavioural state associated with feelings of weariness and discomfort, often with muscle aches, and a disinclination to continue what you have been doing. Fatigue gets progressively worse with the duration and intensity of the task. You don't have to be fatigued to become drowsy, but you can be both fatigued and drowsy at the same time. Fatigue doesn't fluctuate rapidly, over periods of a few seconds, as drowsiness can."

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/melbourne-sleep-expert-murray-jo...

10/08/2010


Melbourne sleep expert Murray Johns markets his drowsiness monitor Optalert | The ...

Page 2 of 2

Johns began his working life as a geologist specialising in hydrogeology. He later studied medicine and gained a PhD in sleep medicine at a time when the discipline did not exist. In 1988 he set up the Epworth Sleep Centre in Melbourne, the first private sleep medicine clinic in Australia. His work at the clinic made him acutely aware of the dangers of drowsiness. "I had truck drivers coming to me with sleep disorders, who were too drowsy to drive. They said I can't stay awake driving. I thought, why can't I, as the expert, develop something to help them?" He says that, despite running a sleep clinic for 14 years, he had no real interest in running a business. "I am not a businessman's bootlace. I ran a successful practice but I didn't want to be an entrepreneur chasing investors. "Years and a big chunk of my nest egg went into developing the device. "By 2001 I had a patent for the glasses. Since then I have developed this technology in my retirement." Commercialising medical technology is challenging. Johns employed the services of a bio-engineer to build a prototype that he had developed for measuring drowsiness. "I was financing this for several years. It was a risk but I thought I was on to something." Despite his protestations, Johns is every bit the entrepreneur, with the attributes needed to take an idea to the market -- indeed create a market -- for a commercially viable product. "It meant employing engineers and salespeople. The investment has not been recouped yet." He stepped back from the chief executive position a few years ago, retaining the role of chief scientist. "The company is better in the hands of a new CEO," he says Optalert's potential has attracted attention from private investors who believe it could one day be as common as seatbelts and child safety restraints in cars. Investors have come on board, the federal government has provided a $1.5 million Start Grant and the NRMA in 2006 contributed $1m. Recommend

0

Be the first of your friends to recommend this.

tweet

Copyright 2010 News Limited. All times AEST (GMT +10).

All times are EST. Š MarketWatch, Inc. 2008. All rights reserved. Subject to the Terms of Use. Designed and powered by Dow Jones Client Solutions. MarketWatch, the MarketWatch logo, BigCharts and the BigCharts logo are registered trademarks of MarketWatch, Inc. Dow Jones is the registered trademark of Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Intraday data delayed at least 15 minutes. "Intraday data is provided by Interactive Data Real Time Services and subject to the Term of Use." FXQuoteTM provided by GTIS, an Interactive Data Company "Historical and current end-of-day data provided by Interactive Data Pricing and Reference Data". FTSE (Footsie) is a trade mark of the London Stock Exchange and the Financial Times and is used by FTSE International under license.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/melbourne-sleep-expert-murray-jo...

10/08/2010

http://www.optalert.com/wp-content/pdfs/Australian-Melbourne%20sleep%20expert%20Murray%20Johns-20Mar  

http://www.optalert.com/wp-content/pdfs/Australian-Melbourne%20sleep%20expert%20Murray%20Johns-20Mar2010.pdf