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App By WSU Team Lets Cops Know When They're Tired

Could the same kind of self-tracking technology that's become popular among smartphone users also help police officers stay safer on the job?

Researchers at Washington State University say it can. And at a White House conference on Tuesday, a criminal justice professor will debut an app  that monitors alertness.

The “BeSharp” app works in tandem with a wristwatch-like device that tracks the wearer's movements. When you've been awake too long or didn't get enough sleep – it knows. The app sends you a message telling you to take a nap or get a cup of coffee.

You might wonder who needs an app for that. But WSU researcher Bryan Vila says the problem is, most people, including police, don't know when they're getting tired.

“People are lousy judges," he says. "That's not the scientific term, but people are lousy judges of their own impairment from fatigue. So by the time you think, 'Oh God, I'm so tired,' you've been tired for a long time and you're just now noticing it.”

Vila says it’s a big deal when fatigue impairs police officers’ decision making abilities. He says errors from sleep deprivation are such a problem that traffic accidents rival gun shots for the biggest cause of on-the-job fatalities among cops.

Vila developed a test version of the app as part of the White House's open data project.