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1. WO2020192952 - METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DETERMINING PERSONNEL HARNESSING AND POSITION PROTOCOL ADHERENCE

Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

[ EN ]

METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DETERMINING PERSONNEL HARNESSING AND

POSITION PROTOCOL ADHERENCE


The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for controlling access to a vehicle, including selectively controlling a locking mechanism of the vehicle in relation to the detection of both an authorised person and a patient transport apparatus. Further, the present invention relates to a method and apparatus for determining whether a person on a patient transport apparatus is correctly positioned and/or harnessed according to a predefined protocol.

BACKGROUND OF THF INVENTION

Biometric identification has found a large number of applications in recent years, and particularly in the field of security. The uniqueness of human features, whether that is facial features (such as facial structure or eyes), finger prints or hand prints, adds a level of security vastly more difficult to“hack” than historical conventional security means such as password identification. Typically optical sensors of various kinds are used to detect unique facial features among other biometric markers which identify an individual for

authorisation/security clearance.

A common scenario in the field of emergency response medical treatment is one in which paramedics are treating and collecting patients at a scene containing at least one or several sources of threat to themselves the patient and the ambulance vehicle itself, for example, a riot or terrorist incident or the like). The risk of vehicle hijacking is a very real possibility in such a scenario if the paramedic(s) should forget to lock the ambulance upon leaving it to attend a patient or upon returning to the vehicle. Moreover, paramedics are required by law to leave vehicles running at the scene, making hijacking an even more realistic threat.

In addition to improving security, providing automated access to the clinical environment of the ambulance - for example via a ramp, lift or other means - is desirable to reduce the risk of an accident occurring during the loading of a patient in to the ambulance, and to reduce the time between approaching the ambulance and driving away, in a high-stress environment. Such a scenario also presents an increased risk of incorrect patient harnessing or positioning.

Furthermore, the regulation of environment parameters on board the ambulance - parameters which ideally are tailored to the condition of the patient such as temperature, pressure and humidity - is a step which might go amiss in such a high- stress scenario. Moreover, versatility of the ambulance service ought to be a priority given the demand for ambulances worldwide in locations varying for example in temperature and altitude. Response external environment conditions may differ globally as much as a dry desert at sea-level with 50°C, a sub-polar environment at -40°C or a high elevation environment e.g. 10,000ft above sea-level. In any such environment it is crucial that the patient is introduced to an environment which is determined to not be adverse to their health and their treatment. For example, a patient suffering from severe heatstroke would benefit from a cool environment or an environment which is gradually brought to a cool temperature with respect to the external environment. The above description is to at least some extent equally applicable for other emergency response vehicles such as an emergency helicopter or an emergency boat.

It is thus desirable to provide a method and apparatus for controlling access to a vehicle which addresses at least some of the drawbacks of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THF, INVENTION

According to a first aspect of the invention there is provided a method for controlling access to a vehicle, comprising:

capturing an image of an area associated with a vehicle;

analysing the captured image;

detecting if the captured image contains at least one person and a patient transport apparatus; and

determining if a person on the patient transport apparatus is correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol and/or correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol.

Preferably the method further comprises selectively controlling a locking mechanism of the vehicle in response to the captured image containing the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol and/or correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol, and the captured image containing an authorised person.

Advantageously the method further comprises determining a type of the patient transport apparatus and controlling a parameter of the vehicle in response to the determined type.

Preferably one or more predefined protocols are selected for use in response to determining the type of the patient transport apparatus.

Advantageously the method further comprises determining if the patient transport apparatus is a stretcher, a wheelchair or a dolly.

Further advantageously the method further comprises determining the type of the stretcher, the type of the wheelchair or the type of the dolly.

Advantageously the method further comprises extending a ramp from the vehicle or

lowering a lift from the vehicle to facilitate access of the patient transport apparatus to the vehicle in response to one or more of:

I) the captured image containing the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol;

II) the captured image containing the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol;

III) determining the type of the patient transport apparatus.

Advantageously the method further comprises determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle lift according to a predefined protocol.

Advantageously the method further comprises determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle ramp according to a predefined protocol.

Advantageously the method further comprises determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured in the interior of the vehicle according to a predefined protocol.

Advantageously the method further comprises providing a notification to a user of the vehicle in response to one or more of:

i) determining if the person on the patient transport apparatus is correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol;

ii) determining if the person on the patient transport apparatus is correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol;

iii) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle lift according to a predefined protocol;

iv) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle ramp according to a predefined protocol; or

v) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured in the interior of the vehicle according to a predefined protocol.

Preferably the notification comprises an audio and/or visual notification. Advantageously the method further comprises selectively controlling at least one parameter of the vehicle in response to detecting both of the at least one authorised personnel and the patient transport apparatus approaching the vicinity of the vehicle.

Preferably the at least one parameter is an environmental parameter.

Further preferably the environmental parameter comprises temperature.

Advantageously the method further comprises measuring at least one external environment parameter of the vehicle.

Advantageously the method further comprises controlling a vehicle environment parameter in response to the at least one measured external environment parameter.

Advantageously the method further comprises regulating the vehicle environment to a predefined characteristic.

Ideally the method further comprises maintaining a log in memory each time the predefined protocol was breached.

Preferably the log in memory is associated with a user profile of one or more authorised personnel.

Advantageously the method further comprises transmitting at least part of the contents of the memory to a remote database.

Preferably a transmission transmits at least part of the contents of the memory to a remote database when the predefined protocol was breached.

Further preferably the transmission is a wireless transmission.

According to a further aspect there is provided an apparatus for determining patient safety, the apparatus comprising:

an image capture device for capturing an image of an area associated with a vehicle;

a detecting means for detecting if the captured images contain both at least one person and a patient transport apparatus;

an image analysing means for analysing the captured image, wherein the imaging analysing means is configured for determining if a person on the patient transport apparatus is correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol and/or correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol.

According to third aspect of the invention there is provided an apparatus for controlling access to a vehicle, comprising:

an image capture device for capturing an image of an area in the vicinity of the vehicle;

a detecting means for detecting if the captured images contain both at least one person and a patient transport apparatus;

an image analysing means for analysing the captured image, wherein the imaging analysing means is configured for determining if a person on the patient transport apparatus is correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol and/or correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol;

a processing means for determining if the at least one person in the captured image is authorised to access the vehicle.

Preferably the apparatus further comprises a control means for selectively controlling a

locking mechanism of the vehicle in response to the captured image containing one or both of: the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol and/or correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol, and the captured image containing at least one authorised person and the patient transport apparatus.

Preferably the processing means is configured to implement a machine learning algorithm.

Further preferably the detecting means is configured for detecting if the personnel transport apparatus is a stretcher, a wheelchair or a dolly.

Ideally the detecting means is configured for detecting the type of the stretcher, the type of the wheelchair or the type of the dolly.

Advantageously the control means is further configured for extending a ramp from the

vehicle or lowering a lift from the vehicle to facilitate access of the patient transport apparatus to the vehicle in response to one or more of:

I) image analysing means determining that the captured image contains the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol;

II) image analysing means determining that the captured image contains the captured image containing the person on the patient transport apparatus correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol;

III) the type of the patient transport apparatus determined by the detecting means.

Advantageously the image analysing means is further configured to determine one or more of: if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle lift according to a predefined protocol; if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle ramp according to a predefined protocol; and if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured in the interior of the vehicle according to a predefined protocol.

Preferably the control means is further configured for controlling operations of a mechanical apparatus associated with the vehicle.

In one aspect the mechanical apparatus is a retractable ramp.

In another aspect the mechanical apparatus is a lift.

Preferably the apparatus further comprises an environment measurement means for

measuring one or more vehicle environment parameters.

Further preferably the apparatus further comprises an environment controlling means for controlling one or more vehicle environment parameters.

Ideally the apparatus further comprises an external environment measurement means for measuring one or more external environment parameters.

Preferably the apparatus further comprises memory for storing one or more environment control protocols defining instructions for controlling the vehicle environment parameters.

Beneficially the control means is configured for varying the one or more environment

parameters towards predefined values for the one or more environment parameters, with respect to the external environment parameters.

Further beneficially the control means is configured for dynamically adjusting power output of the environment controlling means in dependence on one or a combination of one or more environment parameters, one or more external environment parameters, duration the vehicle doors have been open and duration of presence of the at least one authorised personnel in the vicinity of the vehicle.

Preferably the control means is operationally associated with the vehicle electromechanical actuators.

Ideally the apparatus further comprises memory for storing one or more predefined protocols for harnessing and/or positioning a person on the patient transport apparatus.

Further ideally the apparatus further comprises a communication means for communicating with a remote server or a remote database.

Preferably the communication means is a wireless communication means.

Preferably the control means is configured for locking the vehicle doors if a predefined

combination or number of authorised personnel leaves the vehicle or the vicinity of the vehicle.

Preferably the apparatus further comprises a recording means for synchronously recording personnel status, vehicle environment and vehicle parameter data.

Advantageously the detecting means is configured for detecting fluid spillage.

In one aspect the fluid is a bodily fluid including but not limited to blood or vomit.

Advantageously the apparatus further comprises memory for storing one or more of

synchronously recorded data, harnessing protocol adherence, positioning protocol adherence and fluid spillage.

Ideally the processing means is further configured to generate a report to be transmitted

wirelessly to a remote server or a remote database.

Preferably the report to be transmitted to a remote server or a remote database contains one or more of the synchronously recorded data, harnessing protocol adherence, positioning protocol adherence and fluid spillage.

Advantageously, the detecting means is further configured to determine the distance of the at least one person and one or more objects from the vehicle, their duration of time from the vehicle, and the direction and speed of their motion with respect to the vehicle.

Advantageously, the apparatus further comprises a notification means configured for

providing an audio and/or visual notification.

According to a fourth aspect of the invention there is provided a computer-readable medium comprising instructions which, when executed, cause a processor to carry out one or more aspects of a method as those outlined above.

According to a fifth aspect of the invention there is provided an emergency vehicle comprising the apparatus of the second and third aspects.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THF, DRAWINGS

Figure 1 is an illustration of an apparatus according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 2 is an illustration of elevation and plans views of a scenario in which the apparatus may be implemented according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 3 is an illustration of a system according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 4 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 5 is an illustration of a plurality of scenarios according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 6 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 7 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 8 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 9 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 10 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 11 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 12 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 13 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 14 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 15 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 16 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 17 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 18 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 19 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 20 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figure 21 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure; and

Figure 22 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THF DRAWINGS

The present teaching will now be described with reference to an exemplary method and apparatus. It will be understood that the exemplary method and apparatus are provided to assist in an understanding of the present teaching and are not to be construed as limiting in any fashion. Furthermore, elements or components that are described with reference to any one Figure may be interchanged with those of other Figures or other equivalent elements without departing from the spirit of the present teaching.

Referring now to the Figures there is illustrated a method and apparatus for controlling access to a vehicle, wherein when at least one authorised person and a patient transport apparatus are detected by optical sensors the state of a locking mechanism of the vehicle can be switched to the‘open’ state. In the exemplary embodiment, the vehicle is an ambulance. It will be understood that the description of the present disclosure can equally apply to any vehicle appropriately outfitted with the relevant components and the apparatus herein. Moreover, where in the exemplary embodiment‘ambulance’ is used in place of‘vehicle’, for consistency in the context the term‘paramedic’ will replace‘person’ and ought to be understood as referring to an authorised personnel. Unauthorised personnel are referred to as ‘further person(s)’. It will be understood that in embodiments involving any vehicle appropriately outfitted with the relevant components and the apparatus herein, the term ‘person’ may be used. What is more, whilst the term‘patient transport apparatus’ is generally used herein, it will be understood that since the disclosure is not isolated to an ambulance the use of the word‘patient’ is not always most appropriate. For example, a more general term may be‘personnel transport apparatus’. This may cover, by way of example only, contexts in which the vehicle is a police vehicle, security vehicle, military vehicle, fire engine or the like, as well as a civilian vehicle.

Figure 1 is a block diagram illustrating a configuration of an apparatus comprising a computing device 100 which includes various hardware and software components that, in conjunction with a plurality of external devices it is operationally associated with, function to perform processes according to the present disclosure. Referring to Figure 1, the computing device 100 comprises a processor/processing means 105 in communication with memory 110. The processor 105 functions to execute software instructions that can be loaded and stored in the memory 110. The processor 105 may include a number of processors, a multi processor core, or some other type of processor, depending on the particular implementation. The memory 110 may be accessible by the processor 105, thereby enabling the processor 105 to receive and execute instructions stored on the memory 110. The memory 110 may be, for example, a random access memory (RAM) or any other suitable volatile or non-volatile computer readable storage medium. In addition, the memory 110 may be fixed or removable and may contain one or more components or devices such as a hard drive, a flash memory, a rewritable optical disk, a rewritable magnetic tape, or some combination of the above.

One or more software modules may be encoded in the memory 110. The software modules may comprise one or more software programs or applications having computer program code or a set of instructions configured to be executed by the processor 105. Such computer program code or instructions for carrying out operations for aspects of the systems and

methods disclosed herein may be written in any combination of one or more programming languages.

The software modules may include at least a first application 115 configured to be executed by the processor 105. The software modules may further include a second application 120 and a third application 125 configured to be executed by the processor 105. During execution of the software modules, the processor 105 configures the computing device 100 to perform various operations relating to the embodiments of the present disclosure, as will be described below. In the exemplary embodiment, the first, second and third applications 115, 120 and 125 may be an image analysing means 115, a detection means 120 and a recording means 125.

Image analysis will be understood to entail a multitude of techniques known to one skilled in the art, including but not limited to one or more of digital signal processing, Fourier analysis and 3D pose estimation. The detecting means 120 may comprise any software package for detecting specific features of an image; it will be understood that this may entail edge detection software; one or more machine learning techniques such as deep learning algorithms implementing neural networks; pattern recognition and feature detection. These techniques may be implemented once on any single frame or dynamically on a live feed comprising a plurality of frames.

Other information and/or data relevant to the operation of the present apparatus, systems and methods, such as a database 130, may also be stored on the memory 110. The database 130 may contain and/or maintain various data items and elements that are utilized throughout the various operations of the apparatus and system described below. It should be noted that although the database 130 is depicted as being configured locally to the computing device 100, in certain implementations the database 130 and/or various other data elements stored therein may be located remotely. Such elements may be located on a remote device or server - not shown, and connected to the computing device 100 through a network in a manner known to those skilled in the art, in order to be loaded into a processor and executed.

Further, the program code of the software modules and one or more computer readable storage devices (such as the memory 110) form a computer program product that may be manufactured and/or distributed in accordance with the present disclosure, as is known to those of skill in the art.

A control means 135 may be operationally associated with the processor 105. The control means 135 may be further operationally associated with one or further external devices 140, 145, 150. In the exemplary embodiment, the control means 135 may be operationally associated with a vehicle locking mechanism 140, a vehicle ramp/lift mechanism 145 and vehicle electromechanical actuators 150. The vehicle electromechanical actuators 150 will be understood by the skilled person to comprise, but is not limited to, the electromechanical sensor(s), actuator(s) and circuit(s) which may be found on-board a vehicle.

A communication means 155 is also operatively connected to the processor 105 and may be any interface that enables communication between the computing device 100 and other devices, machines and/or elements. The communication means 155 is configured for transmitting and/or receiving data from remote databases 160 and/or servers 165. For example, the communication means 155 may include but is not limited to a Bluetooth, or cellular transceiver, a satellite communication transmitter/receiver, an optical port and/or any other such, interfaces for wirelessly connecting the computing device 100 to the other devices.

A user interface 170 is also operatively connected to the processor 105. The user interface 170 may comprise one or more input device(s) such as switch(es), button(s), key(s), and a touchscreen.

The user interface 170 functions to facilitate the capture of commands from the user such as on-off commands or settings related to operation of the apparatus and system described below. The user interface 170 may function to issue remote instantaneous instructions or notifications on images received via a non-local image capture mechanism.

The processor 105 may be further operationally associated with one or more external devices. The one or more external devices may include but are not limited to an image capture device 175, an environment control means 180, an environment measurement means 185 and an external environment measurement means 190. Data may be transmitted to and/or from these external devices. Data from these external devices may be processed by the processor 105 implementing one or more of the software packages stored in memory 110. Data from the external devices may be stored in memory 110 via the recording means 125. Instructions such as predefined protocols stored in memory 110 may be sent to the external devices via the processor 105.

The computing device 100 may further be associated with one or more further computing devices 100 in an Internet of Things (IoT) network, using the communication means 155 on board every computing device 100. The IoT network may comprise one or more remote server(s) and remote database(s), and software modules located locally to any number of computing devices 100 or located remotely on said remote server(s) and/or database(s). The software modules may comprise means to process data received from one or more computing devices 100 and may be configured to produce virtual models to optimise parameters associated with said one or more computing devices 100.

Figure 2 illustrates an elevation view of a common scenario 200 in the work of an emergency medical response unit. A paramedic 205 attends to a patient 210 and loads the patient 210 on to a patient transport apparatus 215. In one embodiment, the patient transport apparatus 215 is a stretcher. In another embodiment, the patient transport apparatus 215 is a wheelchair. In a further embodiment the patient transport apparatus 215 is a dolly. At least one further person 220 who is not a member of the ambulance staff is typically also present at the scene. Once the patient 210 is deemed by the paramedic 205 to be secure on board the patient transport apparatus 215, the paramedic 205 will seek to load the patient 210 on to the ambulance 225 via the rear doors.

As discussed above, the work of a paramedic may entail arriving at a scene with multiple threats, such as during a riot or terrorist incident. For example, the further person(s) 220 may be rioter(s) or terrorist(s) who pose a threat to the paramedic 205, the patient 210 and the surrounding population proper. The further person(s) 220 may seek to hijack the vehicle, and may be successful if the paramedic 205 forgets to lock the ambulance doors when leaving the ambulance 225. To provide a layer of security against this, detection and biometric authorisation of the paramedic 205 leaving the ambulance 225 may actuate locking of the doors. When returning, detection and biometric authorisation of the paramedic 205 together with detection of the patient transport apparatus 215 may be implemented to unlock the ambulance doors according to the embodiments of the present disclosure. Being able to control access to an ambulance on the basis of biometric authorisation of ambulance personnel, and additionally detection of a patient transport apparatus, adds a layer of security which greatly diminishes the chance of a hijacking occurring.

The image capture device 175 may capture an image of an area in the vicinity of the ambulance 225. In one embodiment, the image comprises a single frame. In another

embodiment, the image comprises a plurality of frames. In a further embodiment, the image comprising a plurality of frames may form a video. The image capture device 175 may be placed on top of the ambulance 225 or on one of its vertical sidewalls. The image capture device 175 may be a singular camera or a multitude of cameras positioned together as an array or strategically at various points on the body of the ambulance 225.

Once the image capture device 175 has captured an image of an area in the vicinity of the ambulance 225, the image analysing means 115 may be used to analyse the captured image. The detecting means 120 may then be used to determine if the captured image contains both of the paramedic 205 and the patient transport apparatus 215. If only one or the other, or neither, are detected then the process ends; these steps are best illustrated in Figure 4 and its associated description.

The processing means 105 may be used to determine if the person - the paramedic 205 - is authorised personnel. If the person is determined to be authorised personnel and the patient transport apparatus has additionally been detected to be with them then the locking mechanism 140 on the vehicle (the ambulance 225) may be selectively controlled to be opened by the control means 135. Steps for determining authorisation and access are best illustrated in Figure 4 and its associated description. In the exemplary embodiment, data relating to authorised personnel including but not limited to biometric markers, as well as data relating to markers for detecting the patient transport apparatus 215, is stored on a database 130 in local memory 110. In an alternative embodiment, data relating to authorised personnel and patient transport apparatus detection is stored on a remote database and is accessed either by the communication means 155 (wirelessly) or by installation at a port before driving to the scene of an incident if it is an ambulance.

In the exemplary embodiment, the processing means 105 is configured to implement machine learning algorithms. It will be understood that this may entail any number of machine learning algorithms including supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms as appropriate, for detecting facial and/or other bodily features. For example in one embodiment an unsupervised machine learning algorithm may entail the processing means 105 working in conjunction with the detecting means 120 to group biometric markers from the captured image. The processing means 105 would then seek to match this biometric marker grouping data with biometric data of authorised personnel stored on memory, to authorise a person(s) in the vicinity of the vehicle. In one embodiment, machine learning algorithms may be further used to constantly update and optimise biometric markers associated with personnel as their markers vary naturally over time, so as to avoid possible failed authorisation events. A redundant means (not shown) of overriding the system and/or providing driver credentials may be made available in case of environment setup issues. In one embodiment, a keypad may be placed on the exterior of the ambulance 225 which is operationally associated with the locks on the ambulance 225. Authorised personnel privy to the password may enter the password in to the keypad to unlock the ambulance 225 doors. In a further embodiment, the keypad may additionally or alternatively comprise a finger-print recognition means. In such an embodiment the processing means 105 may be configured to compare biometric data from memory 110 to that provided at the keypad during an access request incident, and process a true/false determination based on a biometric match/failure to authenticate respectively. The processing means 105 would then send the binary determination to the control means 135 which may unlock the ambulance 225 doors if appropriate. In an alternative embodiment, the keypad may comprise a means for processing a proximity card access request or a magnetic stripe card access request.

Referring again to the image analysing means 115, in one embodiment the image analysing means 115 may further be configured to determine if one or both of the authorised personnel and the person on the patient transport apparatus 215 are correctly harnessed according to a predefined protocol. The image analysing means 115 may additionally be configured to determine if a person on the patient transport apparatus 215 is correctly positioned according to a predefined protocol. The predefined protocol may, for example, define that the paramedic 205 may be unharnessed to carry out treatment, but that the patient on the patient transport apparatus 215 must be harnessed correctly with the belt secured over their body and not underneath them. If the patient transport apparatus 215 is a dolly, the predefined protocol may include a requirement that the patient be positioned in an erect position and not slouching; this may further be associated with harnessing requirements, which may help in achieving the positioning end. In the exemplary embodiment, predefined protocols may be stored in a database 130 on local memory 110. Alternatively the predefined protocols may be stored on a remote database and accessed either by the communication means 155 for communicating with the server or by installation at a port before driving to the scene of an incident if it is an ambulance. Ultimately this would assist in the paramedics’ job in ensuring patient safety and security. The communication means 155 may be wireless, which in one embodiment may be a transceiver.

In one embodiment the control means 135 is configured for controlling operations of a mechanical apparatus associated with the vehicle, such as a vehicle ramp or vehicle lift or the like. In the exemplary embodiment the detecting means 120 is capable of determining the type of patient transport apparatus 215, so as to facilitate the correct instructions being provided to the control means 135 whether a vehicle ramp or lift ought to be actuated in to operation. The detecting means 120 may be configured to determine if the patient transport apparatus 215 is a stretcher, a wheelchair or a dolly to this end. Moreover, the detecting means 120 may be further configured to determine the type of the stretcher the type of the wheelchair or the type of the dolly to this end, since not all patient transport apparatuses require electro-mechanically assisted access to the ambulance 225. Determining whether or not electro -mechanical assistance is required in this manner not only improves the speed and efficiency of the patient loading process, but also conserves vehicle battery energy. For example, energy would be wasted if the type of stretcher/wheelchair/dolly was not determined and the lift/ramp was lowered/extended unnecessarily and then needed to be returned again. In the exemplary embodiment, the detecting means 120 may further be configured to determine the distance of persons and objects from the vehicle, their duration of time from the vehicle, and the direction and speed of their motion with respect to the vehicle (i.e. moving towards or away from the vehicle and at a certain speed). In such a

configuration, protocols for unlocking based on these determinations may be stored in local memory 110.

In the exemplary embodiment the apparatus may additionally comprise the environment measurement means 185 for measuring one or more vehicle environment parameters. The one or more vehicle environment parameters may include but are not limited to vehicle temperature, pressure and humidity. In the exemplary embodiment, the environment measurement means 185 may comprise one or more transducers.

In the exemplary embodiment the apparatus may additionally comprises the external environment measurement means 190 for measuring one or more external environment parameters. The one or more external environment parameters may include but are not limited to ambient temperature, pressure, humidity, wind speed and wind chill. The external environment measurement means 190 may comprise one or more transducers. The external environment measurement means 190 is illustrated as being positioned on the roof of the ambulance 225, however it will be understood that any number of alternative positions are envisaged as being possible such as but not limited to the exterior sidewalls of the ambulance 225.

In the exemplary embodiment, the apparatus further comprises an environment control means 180 for controlling one or more of the vehicle environment parameters. In one embodiment the environment controlling means comprises a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Environment control protocols defining instructions for controlling the vehicle environment parameters may be stored on local memory or communicated wirelessly to the vehicle. In one embodiment, the environment control protocols may be based on various scenarios of external environment parameters. For example, there may be an environment control protocol tailored for when the external environment is 50 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity, and another for when the external environment is -40 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity. Controlling the vehicle environment parameters in this way may be useful if the vehicle environment is at least partially lost to the external environment due to a prolonged period in which the vehicle doors are open during loading. In such an embodiment, the processing means 105 may access the measured external environment parameters from memory, and match them with the closest defined parameter set in memory (e.g. a measured external environment parameter set defined by 47 degrees Celsius and 84% humidity would be matched to a predefined set defined by 50 degrees Celsius with 80% humidity). The processing means 105 may then send from memory the environment control protocol associated with that predefined parameter set to the environment controlling means, which would then regulate the vehicle environment parameters according to that protocol. In another embodiment, the environment protocols based on the measured external environment parameters may further comprise protocols in which the vehicle environment is gradually returned to predefined optimal conditions with respect to the external environment parameters. This may be useful, for example, when treating a patient with severe heatstroke: it is commonly advised to not introduce one suffering from severe heatstroke to a very cool environment immediately from a very hot environment as this can have an adverse affect on their health.

In a further embodiment, the control means 135 may be configured to conserve vehicle battery power by dynamically adjusting the power output of the environment control means 180, in dependence on one or a combination of one or more vehicle environment parameters, one or more external environment parameters, the duration the vehicle doors have been open and the duration of the presence of authorised personnel in the vicinity of the vehicle.

In the exemplary embodiment the apparatus may additionally comprise a recording means 125 for writing to memory protocol adherence history. In the exemplary embodiment, the communication means may be used to transmit data relating to protocol adherence by authorised personnel from local memory to a remote database. A user profile of each of the authorised personnel containing their protocol adherence history may be formed on a remote database. Tracking protocol adherence of any member of ambulance crew may be useful for investigative purposes ex post facto, or for staff training purposes among other uses. In an alternative embodiment, an event of protocol violation may be transmitted in real-time to a remote server via the communication means 155. Real-time updates such as this may be implemented for example in conjunction with a control centre which can communicate with ambulance staff and/or control vehicle parameters such as but not limited to maximum speed and acceleration. Step 340 of Figure 3 best illustrates the aspect of the embodiment including the control centre.

The recording means 125 may further be configured to synchronously write to memory patient status data (such as heartrate, blood pressure etc.), vehicle environment data such as temperature and vehicle parameter data such as speed and acceleration. Synchronously recording such data may be useful for investigative purposes ex post facto, or for staff training purposes among other uses. The synchronously recorded data may further include time stamps. The harnessing and positioning protocol adherence data may further be associated with the synchronously recorded data via time stamps.

In one embodiment, the detecting means 120 may be further configured for detecting fluid spillage. The fluid may include but is not limited to blood or vomit. In such an embodiment, the recording means may further be configured to write fluid spillage incidents to memory. Fluid spillage incidents may be further associated with the synchronously recorded data via time stamps. In the exemplary embodiment, data regarding markers for identifying different types of fluids may be stored on local memory 110. Alternatively the data regarding markers for identifying different types of fluids may be stored on a remote database and accessed either by the communication means 155 for communicating with the server or by installation at a port before driving to the scene of an incident if it is an ambulance. The communication means 155 may be a wireless communication means 155.

In the exemplary embodiment, the processing means 105 may further be configured to compile a report containing one or more of the synchronously recorded data, harnessing

protocol adherence, positioning protocol adherence and fluid spillage, to be transmitted wirelessly to a remote server or remote database. Alternatively, the processing means 105 may compile the report and write it local memory for retroactive review.

In one embodiment, the control means 135 may be operationally associated with the vehicle electromechanical actuators 150 on-board the vehicle to perform one or more of the tasks outlined above including but not limited to vehicle environment parameter control, selective locking of vehicle doors and ramp or lift actuation.

Figure 2 further illustrates a plan view of the interior volume 235 of the rear of the ambulance 225 according to an embodiment of the present disclosure, which contains a plurality of the image capture device 175 mounted on its sidewalls. The image capture device 175 may alternatively be mounted on the ceiling of the interior of the ambulance 225. Having the image capture device 175 installed in the interior of ambulance 225 may serve the purpose of capturing images for the detection of fluid spillage and for determining if harnessing and patient positioning protocols are abided by at all times. In terms of determining harnessing and positioning protocols, the use of image analysis to determine adherence removes the need for an integrally installed seat with one or both of harnesses integrally connected to the vehicle electromechanical actuators 150 and pressure sensors under the seats/patient transport apparatus 215 integrally connected to the vehicle electromechanical actuators 150. In this respect, a“dumb” patient transport apparatus 215 (that is, one not being integrally connected or connectable to the vehicle) can be used, providing greater flexibility of choice whilst still being able to provide protocol adherence monitoring at all times. In the exemplary embodiment, machine learning algorithms may be implemented to detect if authorised person(s) and the patient are harnessed correctly and if the patient is positioned correctly. Harnesses 240 may be of any colour and consist of any pattern. Machine learning algorithms may include deep learning algorithms implementing neural networks. In a further

embodiment, one or more of edge detection, object recognition, pattern matching, gauging or metrology (object size and distance measurement) and image matching may be implemented together with, or as an alternative to, machine learning algorithms. These techniques may be implemented once on any single frame or dynamically on a live feed comprising a plurality of frames.

Figure 3 is an illustration of a system 300 according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. The system 300 comprises the ambulance 225 fitted with a wireless

communication means 155 capable of communicating with the remote server 165, itself capable of transmitting and receiving information to and from remote database(s) 160. The remote database(s) 160 may be further associated with a remotely located control centre 305 capable of receiving, processing and transmitting information back downstream to the ambulance 225 via the remote server 165. The wireless communication means 155 may transmit information such as geographical position, based on the communication of the ambulance 225 with a geographical positioning satellite system 310. The wireless

communication means 155 may also transmit vehicle parameter data from various on-board facilities 315 such as but not limited to a gyroscope, a speedometer and an emergency lights status clock. Furthermore, the wireless communication means 155 may transmit the data outlined above including but not limited to synchronously recorded data, harnessing protocol adherence, positioning protocol adherence and fluid spillage. The report containing this data - compiled by the processing means 105 - may be transmitted to the remote server 165 and stored on the remote database(s) 160. The report may be compiled in real-time or ex post facto. If the report is compiled in real-time, the report may further be transmitted in real-time to the control centre 305 for real-time review. In one embodiment, when a fluid spillage event is detected the vehicle 225 is automatically removed from a real-time dossier of fleet vehicles available for use, and the control centre 305 is alerted that the vehicle 225 is contaminated. Only once the vehicle 225 has been decontaminated according to territorially defined medical hygiene standards and this fact recorded with the control centre 305, will the vehicle 225 reappear in the real-time dossier and be made available for use. The control centre 305 may be able to selectively change and/or reduce the personnel who may be authorised to access a quarantined vehicle. More generally, the control centre 305 may determine who is authorised to access the vehicle 225 at any one time. Figures 20-22 provide further exemplary methods of safety control in a vehicle, consistent with embodiments of the present disclosure. As discussed above, having the image capture device 175 installed in the interior of ambulance 225 may serve the purpose of capturing images for the detection of fluid spillage. However, it will be understood that contamination and sanitary protocol violation events are not constrained to the interior volume of a vehicle. Indeed, any of blood spillage, the presence of vomit or other potentially contagious body fluids, improper waste disposal, the presence needles or other exposed sharp objects may be present external to the interior volume of the vehicle. Accordingly, it is envisaged in the above that the detecting means may be configured for detection of sanitary protocol violation events in the interior volume of the vehicle but also feasibly in the area surrounding the vehicle. What is more, sanitary protocol violation events may also comprise one or more of the absence of personnel protective equipment (gloves, sanitary garments such as but not limited to gowns, respirators, safety masks, protective eyewear and the like) and unsafe injection practices by (e.g.) authorised vehicle personnel or by others. Sanitary protocol violation events may comprise unsafe exposure or presence of hazardous objects such as but not limited to: a syringe, a knife, or a fragment of a resilient material, where the resilient material may comprise (e.g.) one or more of a glass, a metal, a wood. Accordingly, the detecting means may be configured to detect any of the above sanitary protocol violation and events, and the processing means may record them in a log in memory. Moreover, it will be understood that the detection of fluid spillage in and around the vehicle is not necessarily contingent on authorised personnel being present in or around the vehicle. However, as discussed previously, if a log of predefined safety protocol violation is maintained, in some embodiments it may be advantageous to detect an authorised person(s) and associate protocol violation events to their unique ID. Accordingly, this may form part of a report compiled by the processing means. In alternative embodiments,

‘sanitary’ may be generalised to‘safety’, i.e. safety protocols, since the present invention is not constrained to use in medical applications. In such embodiments, safety protocol violation may comprise the absence of certain law-enforcement/security equipment and the like.

A series of user notification modules 320 for providing notifications to a user of the vehicle may be actuated by a number of processes via the control means 135. The user notification modules may include a visual notification means such as an LCD display capable of producing visual messages, or an audio system capable of producing audio messages. In one embodiment, the control centre 305 may be monitoring vehicle parameter data in real-time and may communicate notifications to be relayed to personnel on-board the ambulance 225 via one or more of the user notification modules 320. In another embodiment, when harnessing and/or patient positioning protocols are detected as being breached one or more of the user notification modules 320 may provide a notification to personnel on-board the ambulance 225. Protocol breach notifications may be stored in local memory to be accessed by the processing means 105 and routed to the control means 135 which may actuate one or more of the user notification modules 320.

Figure 4 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure. Initially, an image of an area in the vicinity of the vehicle is captured, step 410. The image is then analysed, step 420. The image is analysed to detect if the captured image contains both a person and a patient transport apparatus, step 430. The image is further

analysed to determine if the person in the captured image is authorised to access the vehicle. The locking mechanism 140 of the vehicle is selectively controlled in response to the captured image containing an authorised person and the patient transport apparatus, step 450. The first step 410 may be carried out at all times, or only when the vehicle engine is running. Alluded to in the description of Figure 2 was the third step 430, wherein the detecting means 120 determines if the image captured by the image capture device 175 contains both a person and a patient transport apparatus 215. If only one or the other, or neither, are detected then the process ends and returns to 410. If both are detected then the process proceeds to 440 where the processing means 105 is used to determine, based on data from a biometric database of all ambulance staff, if the person is authorised personnel, i.e. the paramedic 205. If the person is authorised then the process proceeds to 450 wherein the control means 135 selectively unlocks one or more doors of the ambulance 225. Both the cab doors and rear doors, or one or the other, may be opened; this may be predefined with a set of instructions stored in memory. The step 430 may further comprise determining that the person and patient transport apparatus are detected to be one or a combination of: within a predefined required distance from the vehicle; a predefined required duration of time within the vicinity of the vehicle; and detected to be moving towards the vehicle. In one embodiment, the predefined required distance may be 10 metres. In another embodiment, the predefined required duration of time within the vicinity of the vehicle may be 10 seconds. In a further embodiment, the step 430 may combine the duration of time the person and patient transport apparatus are within the vicinity of the vehicle with the detection of them moving towards the vicinity of the vehicle, so as to reduce the occurrence of false positives.

Figure 5 is an illustration of possible scenarios the image capture device 175 may capture. Referring to Figure 5a, there is illustrated an embodiment in which both an authorised person 205 and a patient transport apparatus 215 are within the area captured by the image capture device 175. According to the method illustrated in Figure 4, detection of a person and a patient transport apparatus 215 followed by authorisation of said person, is followed by selectively controlling the locking mechanism 140 of the vehicle in response to the captured image containing an authorised person and the patient transport apparatus, step 450. In further embodiments illustrated in subsequent Figures this may be followed by additional method steps.

Referring to Figure 5b, there is illustrated an embodiment in which an authorised person 205, a patient transport apparatus 215 and a further person 220 are within the area captured by the image capture device 175. In the exemplary embodiment, if the further person 220 is detected as being in the captured image then access to the vehicle may be denied. In an alternative embodiment, the detecting means 120 may be configured to detect if the motion of the further person 220 matches a predefined“violent behaviour profile”; such a profile may be stored on local memory 110. The predefined“violent behaviour profile” may comprise one or more of select facial expressions, arm movements or other bodily movements which are predefined as being typical of a person who presents a threat of violence. If the further person 220 is determined by the detecting means 120 as matching such a profile then access may be denied. The purpose of the“violent behaviour profile” might be to avoid instances wherein the paramedic 205 and patient transport apparatus 215 are denied access to the ambulance 225 because of the presence of a further person 220 who poses no threat. In a further embodiment, alternative access authorisation methods may be implemented for such an instance as in 5b. For example, the control centre 305 may be able to commandeer the image capture device 175 in real-time, assess the situation apparent from the image captured and make an authorisation decision on that basis.

Referring to Figure 5c, there is illustrated an embodiment in which an authorised person 205 is within the area captured by the image capture device 175, but not a patient transport apparatus 215. In the absence of a patient transport apparatus 215, the authorised person 205 may be denied access to the vehicle, according to the method of Figure 4. In one

embodiment, alternative access authorisation methods may be implemented for such an instance as in 5c. For example, the authorised person 205 may be able to contact the control centre 305; the control centre 305 may then be able to commandeer the image capture device 175 in real-time, assess the situation apparent from the image captured and make an authorisation decision on that basis.

Referring to Figure 5d, there is illustrated an embodiment in which a patient transport apparatus 215 is within the area captured by the image capture device 175, but not a person.

In the absence of a person, subsequent steps beyond detecting if the captured image contains both a person and a patient transport apparatus 215 may be aborted. In one embodiment, the control centre 305 may be able to commandeer the image capture device 175 in real-time, assess the situation apparent from the image captured and make decisions on that basis including but not limited to contacting personal radios of authorised person 205.

Figure 6 is identical to the method of Figure 4, but with the addition of steps 660-680 relating to facilitating access to the vehicle on the basis of the type of patient transport apparatus in use. Once it has been determined that there is both an authorised person 205 and a patient transport apparatus 215 in the captured image 630-640, and the vehicle doors have been selectively unlocked, step 650, the detecting means 120 determines the type of patient transport apparatus 215, step 660. The sub-category of the patient transport apparatus is then determined, step 670. The type of patient transport apparatus 215 may be a stretcher, a wheelchair or a dolly; the sub-category may be the type of the stretcher, the type of the wheelchair or the type of the dolly. A ramp is then extended or a lift lowered from the vehicle in response to the sub-category of patient transport apparatus 215 if it is determined to be necessary, step 680. The‘if required’ clause is important in light of the fact that not all patient transport apparatuses require electro -mechanical assistance to access the ambulance 225. As outlined above in relation to Figure 2, determining if any one of the ramp or lift is required can save time and energy in the instances where they are not required. Data relating to markers for identifying the various patient transport apparatuses, as well as data relating to ramp/lift protocols based on the type of patient transport apparatus, may be stored on local memory. In various exemplary embodiments, one or more of the steps of Figure 6 may be omitted. For example, in one embodiment the method may comprise: 610-660 only. For example, in another embodiment the method may comprise: 610-660 followed by 680 only. For example, in another embodiment the method may comprise: 610-670 only. For example, in another embodiment the method may comprise: 610-660 followed by providing a notification to a user of the vehicle which means of access to the vehicle is substantially suitable based on the type of patient transport apparatus determined in step 660. In various embodiments, such a notification may be audio and/or visual. In further embodiments, a predefined list of authorised transport apparatus types may be stored in memory (lcaolly or remotely), and as such in various embodiments where the type and possibly sub-type of transport apparatus is determined, the processing means may be further configured to determine if the type of patient transport apparatus is an authorised type of patient transport apparatus. Moreover, as discussed above the term‘patient transport apparatus’ may be replaced by‘personnel transport apparatus’, since the present invention is not limited to ambulances or other medical care vehicles. Furthermore, in some embodiments the detection and authorisation of personnel may be omitted - such embodiments are best presented in Figures 11-14.

Figure 7 is an illustration of an exemplary method according to an embodiment of the present disclosure, containing the steps of the embodiment of Figure 4 followed by the step of selectively controlling at least one parameter of the vehicle in response to detecting both the authorised personnel and patient transport apparatus approaching the vicinity of the vehicle, step 720. Subsequent to step 720 are steps 660-680 of Figure 6. In one embodiment, the vehicle parameter may be a vehicle environment parameter such as temperature, pressure or humidity. For example, in an extreme weather environment where losing the vehicle environment to the external environment may happen in a short time, it may be useful to begin combating loss of the vehicle environment immediately following actuation of the doors to unlock. The environment control means 180 would immediately begin enacting a predefined environment control protocol accessed from memory 110 by the processing means 105. In an alternative embodiment, the vehicle parameter may include but is not limited to vehicle ignition, emergency scene lights and electrically powered medical equipment charging facilities.

Figure 8 is an illustration of a method 800 involving vehicle environment control but in dependence upon measured external environment parameters. The method 800 contains the steps of the embodiment of Figure 4. Once a person and patient transport apparatus 215 have been detected, the person has been authorised and the locking mechanism 140 of the vehicle selectively controlled, at least one external environment parameter is measured, step 820. Subsequently, at least one vehicle environment parameter is selectively controlled in response to detecting both the authorised personnel and patient transport apparatus approaching the vicinity of the vehicle, step 830. As described in relation to Figure 2, the processing means 105 may match the at least one measured external environment parameter to a predefined environment control protocol associated with the closest defined parameter set in memory. The processing means 105 may then communicate this protocol to the environment control means 180, which would subsequently regulate the vehicle environment parameters according to that protocol. Subsequent to step 830 are steps 660-680 of Figure 6.

Figure 9 is an illustration of a method 900 according to an embodiment of the present disclosure, identical to the method 600 of Figure 6, but with the additional step of detecting if patient harnessing and/or patient positioning protocols have been adhered to according to a predefined protocol, step 920.

Figure 10 is an illustration of a method 1000 according to an embodiment of the present disclosure, identical to the method 900 of Figure 9, but with the additional steps of maintaining a log in memory each time the predefined protocol(s) for harnessing and/or positioning is/are breached, step 1020, and transmitting at least part of the contents of the memory to a remote database(s), step 1030. The at least part of the contents of the memory may be transmitted to the remote database(s) wirelessly via the wireless communication means 155 or via wired means for example once the ambulance 225 has returned to its station after a response incident.

Referring to Figure 11, there is provided a method 1100 of controlling access to a vehicle based on detecting 1120 a patient transport apparatus and further determining 1130 a type of the patient transport apparatus. Subsequently, the method 1100 comprises selectively controlling 1140 a locking mechanism of the vehicle in response to the captured image containing the personnel transport apparatus. Figure 12 illustrates a further embodiment where, in addition to the steps 1110-1140 of Figure 11, there is provided the additional step of determining 1220 which means of access to the vehicle is substantially suitable for accessing the vehicle based on the type of the personnel transport apparatus in the captured image.

In some embodiments, the vehicle may be equipped with a notification means. The notification means may be configured to provide a notification, such as an audio and/or visual notification, from the vehicle detailing which means of access to the vehicle is substantially suitable for accessing the vehicle based on the type of the patient transport apparatus in the captured image. An example of an embodiment wherein the provision of a notification is included is given in Figure 13. If neither the lift nor the ramp are suitable based on the type of the patient transport apparatus detected, the notification means may provide a notification in such an instance too. Other means of access to the vehicle may include manual access via the door(s) of the vehicle. The notification means may comprise an audible or visual alarm. For example, the notification means may comprise the sirens and/or one or more lights mounted on the vehicle such as the siren lights of an emergency vehicle. In addition or alternatively, a notification may be provided to a remote device of one or more personnel indicating which means of access to the vehicle is suitable. Said remote device may be communicatively coupled to the notification means or another component of the vehicle such as but not limited to the control means or the processing means.

In any of the embodiments of the present disclosure, if a person is not detected as being present on the personnel transport apparatus, the vehicle system may default to manual access (rather than the automatic extension of an access means such as the vehicle lift or ramp) and manual authentication. The processes may terminate or continue to authenticate any personnel in the vicinity of the vehicle, and in such embodiments where the process continues to authentication the process may selectively control 1350 the locking mechanism in response to the captured image containing the personnel transport apparatus and an authenticated person.

Referring to Figure 14, there is provided a method 1400 similar to that of Figure 12, but including the further step 1460 of extending a ramp or lowering a lift from the vehicle to facilitate access of the patient transport apparatus to the vehicle in response to the type of patient transport apparatus. As discussed, it may alternatively be determined that neither the lift nor the ramp are appropriate in view of the determined type of patient transport apparatus - in such cases, a notification may be provided as in Figure 12 (however it will be understood that the provision of a notification may also apply to cases where the ramp or lift are indeed determined to be appropriate). In some embodiments, if neither the ramp nor the lift are deemed appropriate, the vehicle system, may default to manual. Alternatively, other means of access to the vehicle may be actuated to open, where available.

As discussed in the foregoing, it may be desirable in some embodiments to determine whether the type of patient transport apparatus in the vicinity of the vehicle is an authorised type of patient transport apparatus. For example, a certain type of wheelchair or dolly may not meet the health and safety requirements associated with the vehicle in question.

Authorised personnel may have the option, possibly subject to the provision of a security pass, to override the requirement that the type of the patient transport apparatus is an authorised patient transport apparatus. In some embodiments, such an override event may be included in the report compiled by the processing means 105. As discussed above, data relating to authorised types of patient transport apparatuses may be stored on local memory or remotely. In some embodiments, what constitutes an authorised type of patient transport apparatus may dynamically change based on input from a remote user or authorised personnel local to the vehicle, based on information input such as a type of condition the patient is being treated for. In some embodiments, if it is determined that the type of the patient transport apparatus is not an authorised type of patient transport apparatus, certain steps may be neglected. For example, it may save power/memory to not determine which

means of access to the vehicle is substantially suitable for accessing the vehicle based on the type of the patient transport apparatus in the captured image if the patient transport apparatus is not authorised to access. In some embodiments the process 1400 may be resumed or restarted subject to an override event such as that discussed in the foregoing.

Figures 15-19 illustrate various embodiments of processes for determining patient safety. In addition to determining if a patient is harnessed correctly and/or positioned correctly on the patient transport apparatus, in some embodiments the image analysing means 115 may further be configured to determine if the patient transport apparatus is secured in place in the vehicle and/or secured on a vehicle access means (for example a vehicle lift or vehicle ramp).

With regard to Figure 18, it will be understood that the‘and/or’ clause for the three options which can be nominally labelled‘A’,‘B’ and‘C’ may include all permutations of these labels. Namely,‘A and/or B and/or C may have within its meaning here:

‘A and B and C’ = {ABC};

‘A and B or C’ = {AB, C, AC};

A or B or C = {A, B, C};

A or B and C = {A, BC, AC}.

For completeness, A, B and C here refer to steps 1830; 1840; 1850 respectively.

Referring to Figure 18, there are several advantages of determining 1820 the type of patient transport apparatus (660) and optionally additionally determining the sub-category of the patient transport apparatus (670). In one regard, determining the type of patient transport apparatus and possibly additionally the sub-type of the patient transport apparatus will facilitate increased accuracy in determining whether the patient is correctly harnessed and/or positioned in the patient transport apparatus, since harnessing and positioning protocols may vary between various patient transport apparatuses. Moreover, as discussed above, determining the type and possibly sub-type of patient transport apparatus allows one to determine whether a vehicle ramp or lift ought to be actuated in to operation, and to extend a ramp or lower a lift in response to the type of patient transport apparatus detected.

Accordingly, improved patient safety, improved patient safety protocol adherence, reduced power consumption and improved time efficiency are advantages of the processes of Figure 18.

Figure 19 provides an exemplary method similar to that of Figure 15, but including the additional step of providing 1920 a notification to a user of the vehicle that the patient is not correctly positioned and/or harnessed. It will be understood that the steps of Figure 19 may be further combined in a number of variations with the steps of Figures 16-18. What is more, a notification may further be provided in response to one or more of:

i) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle lift according to a predefined protocol;

ii) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured on the vehicle ramp according to a predefined protocol; or

iii) determining if the patient transport apparatus is correctly secured in the interior of the vehicle according to a predefined protocol

Accordingly, the above determinations i)-iii) may comprise steps performed appropriately in combination with any of the processes of Figures 16-19.

It will be understood that while a number of exemplary embodiments of a method according to the present disclosure have been disclosed in Figures 4 and 6-10, other combinations of the method steps of Figures 4 and 6-10 are possible and are envisaged to be so by the inventors. For example, one might combine the steps 910-920 of Figure 9 with step 720 of Figure 7 or steps 820-830 of Figure 8.

It will be understood that while exemplary features of an apparatus for actuating vehicle parameters using combined biometric personnel-authorised and patient transport apparatus-authorised access to the environment have been described, that such an arrangement is not to be construed as limiting the invention to such features. The method for detection of persons and objects and parameters related to both such as distance and velocity, and furthermore actuating the vehicle parameters and components, may be implemented in software, firmware, hardware, or a combination thereof. In one mode, the method is implemented in software, as an executable program, and is executed by one or more special or general purpose digital computer(s), such as a personal computer (PC; IBM-compatible, Apple-compatible, or otherwise), personal digital assistant, workstation, minicomputer, or mainframe computer. The steps of the method may be implemented by a server or computer in which the software modules reside or partially reside.

Generally, in terms of hardware architecture, such a computer will include, as will be well understood by the person skilled in the art, a processor, memory, and one or more input and/or output (I/O) devices (or peripherals) that are communicatively coupled via a local interface. The local interface can be, for example, but not limited to, one or more buses or other wired or wireless connections, as is known in the art. The local interface may have additional elements, such as controllers, buffers (caches), drivers, repeaters, and receivers, to enable communications. Further, the local interface may include address, control, and/or data connections to enable appropriate communications among the other computer components.

The processor(s) may be programmed to perform the functions of the method for authorising persons and controlling vehicle parameters such as but not limited to the lock state of the doors and the state of access facilities such as a ramp or lift, or vehicle parameters such as but not limited to temperature. The processor(s) is a hardware device for executing software, particularly software stored in memory. Processor(s) can be any custom made or

commercially available processor, a primary processing unit (CPU), an auxiliary processor among several processors associated with a computer, a semiconductor based microprocessor (in the form of a microchip or chip set), a macro-processor, or generally any device for executing software instructions.

Memory is associated with processor(s) and can include any one or a combination of volatile memory elements (e.g., random access memory (RAM, such as DRAM, SRAM, SDRAM, etc.)) and non-volatile memory elements (e.g., ROM, hard drive, tape, CDROM, etc.).

Moreover, memory may incorporate electronic, magnetic, optical, and/or other types of storage media. Memory can have a distributed architecture where various components are situated remote from one another, but are still accessed by processor(s).

The software in memory may include one or more separate programs. The separate programs comprise ordered listings of executable instructions for implementing logical functions in order to implement the functions of the modules. In the example of heretofore described, the software in memory includes the one or more components of the method and is executable on a suitable operating system (O/S).

The present disclosure may include components provided as a source program, executable program (object code), script, or any other entity comprising a set of instructions to be performed. When a source program, the program needs to be translated via a compiler, assembler, interpreter, or the like, which may or may not be included within the memory, so

as to operate properly in connection with the O/S. Furthermore, a methodology implemented according to the teaching may be expressed as (a) an object oriented programming language, which has classes of data and methods, or (b) a procedural programming language, which has routines, subroutines, and/or functions, for example but not limited to, C, C++, Pascal, Basic, Fortran, Cobol, Perl, Java, and Ada.

When the method is implemented in software, it should be noted that such software can be stored on any computer readable medium for use by or in connection with any computer related system or method. In the context of this teaching, a computer readable medium is an electronic, magnetic, optical, or other physical device or means that can contain or store a computer program for use by or in connection with a computer related system or method.

Such an arrangement can be embodied in any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. In the context of this disclosure, a "computer-readable medium" can be any means that can store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer readable medium can be for example, but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. Any method descriptions or blocks in the Figures, should be understood as representing modules, segments, or portions of code which include one or more executable instructions for implementing specific logical functions or steps in the process, as would be understood by those having ordinary skill in the art.

The above detailed description of embodiments of the disclosure is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the disclosure to the exact form disclosed. While specific examples for the disclosure are described above for illustrative purposes, those skilled in the relevant art will recognize various modifications are possible within the scope of the disclosure. For example, while processes and blocks have been demonstrated in a particular order, different implementations may perform routines or employ systems having blocks, in an alternate order, and some processes or blocks may be deleted, supplemented, added, moved, separated, combined, and/or modified to provide different combinations or sub-combinations. Each of these processes or blocks may be implemented in a variety of alternate ways. Also, while

processes or blocks are at times shown as being performed in sequence, these processes or blocks may instead be performed or implemented in parallel or may be performed at different times. The results of processes or blocks may be also held in a non-persistent store as a method of increasing throughput and reducing processing requirements.