We talked to Antonio Visconti of SOBEREYE about major contributors to vehicular crashes and workplace accidents and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Antonio Visconti: We are good. We’ve tried to do responsible things, such as when we go out, we always wear a mask. We socialize with a few couples who are using the same careful behavior. The disease is serious, and we are treating it seriously in our daily lives.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SOBEREYE.
Antonio Visconti: Over the last 25 years, I have managed and grown business from small start-ups to large enterprise organizations. What got me interested in detecting workplace impairment was when I realized that the marijuana legalization trend in the United States and elsewhere was clearly challenging the way businesses approached the issue of workplace drug use.
I live in California, and this problem captured my imagination. I was inspired by seeing police officers looking at people’s eyes to check for intoxication. I started thinking about the problem – how do you check an employee to see if they are tired if they are intoxicated, if they are on a prescription that impairs their ability to work safely or affects the safety of those around them. It must be more than just a drug test; however, it also must take into account privacy, security, and safety. You want your employees to be safe on the job, and you also want them to be able to go home at the end of the day to their families.
I began investigating the use of mobile phone technology to make accurate and objective Pupillary Light Reflex measurements to detect impairment, and in that process, I founded SOBEREYE.
The SOBEREYE system was developed in collaboration with experts in neuroscience, ophthalmology, image processing, and iris recognition. We can now provide an innovative solution to detect the risk of impairment on the job, when it matters most, to save lives.
How does SOBEREYE innovate?
Antonio Visconti: First, we found a way to provide a safe, practical, and cost-effective way to check for impairment due to fatigue, alcohol, and drug use. Second, the results of our test are immediate, providing real-time feedback to the employees taking the test. This helps them to recognize when they are at risk of being impaired and learn to adjust their behavior to prevent that from happening. Third, we created a mobile platform and a cloud-based data system that enables the analysis of the results and see trends and patterns that may impact workplace safety.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Antonio Visconti: At the beginning of this year, we were certainly impacted. Those in the business of workplace safety, the safety officers, the safety directors – all hands were on deck regarding COVID-19, which slowed down a big part of their business other than finding a way to re-open with the new safeguards. Since September, we have seen a re-start. The safety officers have been dealing with COVID-19 for over six months. They are open for business and dealing with it, and now they can go back to the other safety issues such as on-the-job workplace safety beyond COVID-19.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Antonio Visconti: We haven’t had to make many difficult choices because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been aware of the situation and responded as needed over the early part of the year when business was going into lockdown or shutdown. As a company, we’ve been more cautious about our spending. Part of our previous marketing and business development efforts have been with trade shows and conferences. As those were canceled or postponed, we saved some money there and re-allocated the funds to more digital marketing.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and SOBEREYE in the future?
Antonio Visconti: I deal with stress and anxiety by sleeping. I have traveled all over for many, many years, and my wife is very jealous because I can sleep almost on command. I let my “unconscious self” fix things! We see the future of SOBEREYE as a very positive growth curve, as more and more states and cities change their drug policies, as more and more companies begin to realize that older methods of invasive drug or alcohol testing are not working well for them. Our tech innovations start to gain traction in industries that include mining, oil refinery, and drilling, distribution, transportation, and manufacturing, among others.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Antonio Visconti: Our number one competition is that we are an emerging company, and many people don’t know us yet. When people find out who we are and what we do, there is tremendous enthusiasm for what SOBEREYE can do for them. The traditional and only way to address issues related to – fatigue, alcohol, and drugs – was to try to detect each with a different technique and a different technology. SOBEREYE does all three at once in a one-minute self-test. The secret to our success is that we offer a better solution – it’s cost-effective, saves money, and SAVES LIVES.
When your employee comes to work and is tested with SOBEREYE, if they are found to have a high impairment risk, they are reassigned to a non-dangerous job or stopped from working that day. That action removes a risk. A very timely action that prevents an accident from happening.
We are on a mission – to make impairment testing a standard procedure for all safety-sensitive companies. Impairment risk testing in real-time, which is what SOBEREYE does, really saves lives. An accident happens because somebody made a mistake and human error is not a cause but a consequence. If a person fails to hook up a harness when they are working at height, or they do something stupid while driving, they do not do it on purpose; something else is happening. They might be slowed down by lack of sleep, some alcohol or drugs, or the combination of those things. There’s no question about being able to detect real-time on-the-job impairment risk; it saves live.
Look at SOBEREYE like a hardhat. A hardhat is the most accepted, recognized piece of safety equipment in the workplace. Nobody questions its usefulness. But a hardhat does not prevent an object from falling, doesn’t prevent you from hitting your head against something, but it prevents the consequence of anything of that nature from hurting you. SOBEREYE is used to prevent someone who is impaired due to fatigue, alcohol, and drugs from entering the workplace in a condition that may cause an accident. We want SOBEREYE to be as universal as the hardhat in the safety-conscious workplace.
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