Smart helmets could save lives

Despite the law enforcement efforts, many motorcyclists in Bangladesh often ride without a helmet. Now an enterprising polytechnic student from Kurigram has invented a “smart helmet” with the potential to succeed in promoting helmet use. Reliant on Bluetooth technology, the smart helmet will not allow a bike’s engine to start unless the helmet is on the rider’s head. Without a helmet, a motorbike fitted with this technology is going nowhere.

An electronic technology student at Kurigram Polytechnic Institute, Motiur Rahman, from Chattioul village in Dinajpur’s Bochaganj upazila, invented the smart helmet system as an entry for the Skill Competition 2017 held at the institute in October. He won first prize.

“Most motorcyclists aren’t interested in using helmets,” Motiur observes. “Many die in road accidents, from head injuries. I thought: What if riders were compelled to use helmets by the functioning of the motorbike itself?”

Motiur took his idea to the institute’s laboratory and with the help of more senior students and teachers, began to configure the electronic technology required.

“We’ve put a wireless device on the motorbike to detect that the helmet is being worn,” Motiur says. “If anyone tries to start the bike without the helmet, the bike won’t start. Instead, the bike’s dashboard will display ‘Please use helmet’ or ‘Please put the helmet on your head.’ Even if the helmet is with the bike but not being worn the bike won’t start.”

As an added safety feature, Motiur has incorporated a breath sensor into the helmet near a rider’s mouth, which can detect alcohol. If alcohol is detected the motorbike won’t start, to prevent drunk driving. “The helmet requires electricity to work, which can involve either batteries or a solar panel,” says Motiur.

After five months of development, and to win the competition, Motiur had to successfully demonstrate his smart helmet system to teachers and district administration officials.

“The smart bike – smart helmet system is excellent work,” says engineer Jahangir Alom, the head of the institute’s electronics technology department. “Motiur has researched the technology with our help, and while there are still some weak points to his invention, these could be overcome with government help. If his technology was implemented, traffic rules for helmet wearing must be followed and motorcyclists wouldn’t so often die from head injuries.”