Team communication analysis software for simulation training

Dr Brian Vaughan, CTO Crewfactors

What is your idea?

Our software processes speech signals and provides performance metrics relating to team communication effectiveness, teamwork, leadership, adaptability and resilience.

What problem are you solving and what is innovative about your approach?

Pilots working in air transport operators are assessed every six months (in flight simulators) for their ability to aviate, navigate and communicate on the flight deck.

While flight simulators are advanced in assessing technical skills, they don’t give insights into non-technical skills, known as human factors.

The importance of human factors cannot be underestimated, as more than 80% of accidents in air transport are caused by human error rather than technical ability.

To mitigate the risk of accidents caused by human error, pilots are trained in a set of skills called CRM, Crew Resource Management.

These skills largely focus on team communication and coordination and are currently assessed subjectively by instructors. This presents challenges because there is the potential for inaccurate and inconsistent assessments.

Our innovation is software that carries out the analysis of the critical CRM skills,communication and teamwork, thereby providing an objective measurement.

Our product, CrewFactors Aviator, analyses not what people are saying, but how they say it. In particular it measures prosodic accommodation, or how team members are adapting their pitch, rhythm and tone while communicating with each other. This is an indicator of how cohesively a team is performing.

What’s the backstory here and how did you get involved?

I developed the speech processing and analysis technology that underpins CrewFactors at Trinity College Dublin with co-founder Dr Céline De Looze. Early in the commercialisation process we teamed up with Conor Mc Kenna, an experienced product maBig Ideasrketing guy with extensive commercial experience. He was key to pointing this technology into the simulation and training market, where we successfully achieved end user validation. We are now excited to be further commercialising this training innovation via campus company.

In trials with commercial and military pilots during a two-year project at Trinity College Dublin, the performance metrics generated by the software correlated strongly with CRM scores achieved by aviation psychologists.

This technology innovation was developed with Commercialisation fund supports from Enterprise Ireland.

How is this idea commercially attractive?

The airline industry is interested because our approach can augment existing training and help to standardise assessments of pilots. The industry is growing and we can help accelerate training of pilots in CRM with our software.

We are actively selling CrewFactors Aviator in the air transport operator sector and have recently concluded a trial with a leading European airline. We currently charge operators a subscription fee on a per-pilot basis and we are already generating revenue.

We aim to build fully integrated versions of CrewFactors so that team communication skills analysis can be delivered online, which will allow operators worldwide to use the technology. We believe this market for our products (in air transport alone) is worth in excess of €400 million per annum.

Online delivery will also allow us to integrate our speech engine more widely with existing simulation and training solutions. We plan to extend into the maritime, defence and surgical training sectors, where effective team communication is core to operating a safety critical environment.

What are you looking for at the Big Ideas event?

We are raising a round of investment to grow the business and are interested in hearing from investors with an interest in investing in a company targeting the aviation and simulation technology industry.