Safety Wearables – Article 4

Continuing from the previous articles on swim safety wearables…

In my previous articles I spoke about two technology enabled safety devices, Safety Turtle Wristband and Aqua Alert Wristband. These devices are for non-swimmers and mainly meant to alert when they come in contact with water. For this and next upcoming articles, my focus will be on devices that are more advanced, configurable and also work as a safety device for swimmers, particularly, young swimmers and novice swimmers.

Coupe of points I would like to reiterate:

  1. Even though these safety devices provide an extra layer of protection, learning to swim and also swimming under watchful and vigilant eyes still remains the best defense against drowning.
  2. These devices DO NOT prevent drowning, they function only as alerts and the rescue personnel still need to bring the swimmer to safety.

iSwimBand is a simple band that can be worn as a headband or wristband or strapped to the goggle and is useful for both non-swimmers and swimmers. This band uses Blue Tooth technology to communicate with smart phone running either on iOS or Android via a mobile app. The band sends a signal to the smart phone when the swimmer is submerged for more than a pre-set value or a non-swimmer enters the water. The device has a limited range of 30 meters of direct line of sight. Up to 8 iSwimBands can be linked to one device.   The device runs on a non-replaceable battery – some users might see that as a limitation even though the manufacturer claims the battery can run for 100 hours. The device goes to sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity. In my opinion, having an indicator to display the remaining battery life could have been a nice feature.


A device is good as long as it works when the need arises. As much as we desire, there is no 100% guarantee that these devices will deploy when there is a true emergency. The safest bet is to test the devices from time to time to ensure performance, particularly, before getting into the water. Also, if the device relies on another device or mobile app, please ensure those devices and apps are up and running too.

Always ensure the device you are wearing is in working condition before plunging into the water.

Please stay tuned for more upcoming interesting articles on safety wearables.

-Meghna Sil


Safety Wearables – Article 3

As I had mentioned in some of my previous articles, recent trends do indicate many consumers turning towards technology to add an extra layer of protection against drowning. The focus has mostly been on children and non-swimmers, and rightfully so. Children, novice-swimmers, and non-swimmers are more vulnerable and have a greater threat of drowning. That being said, even swimmers and professionals are susceptible to drowning.

Drowning of a child can happen in 2 seconds in 2 inches of water.

Even though safety devices provides an extra layer of protection, learning to swim and swimming under watchful and vigilant eyes still remains the best defense against drowning.

Supplementing supervision with safety devices is a great idea. Some products that come to my mind right away are, Safety Turtle Wristband, iSwimBand, My Buddy Tags, Aqua Alerts Water Activated Wristband, and SEAL Systems. These wearables may have different underlying technologies, but they all either activate alarms and/or send alerts when the device either comes in contact with water or is submerged in water over a preset time. These devices DO NOT prevent drowning; the responsibility still falls on the person watching the swimmer.

Safety Turtle Wristband is a simple wristband which debuted in 1999. This is primarily for non-swimmers (including pets) who are not supposed to be submerged in water. As soon as the wristband, hooked remotely to a base station, becomes wet it activates a high decibel alarm (via radio signals) in the base station. Some of notable features of this device are – it is highly portable; easy to setup and operate; multiple wristbands can be ‘hooked’ to one base station; each wristband comes with a lock/key so the kids cannot take them off; reasonably good battery life of 3-4 years; and normally, it doesn’t send false signals on water splashes and spilled drinks.   The range is limited to 60-70 meters direct line of sight and can be impacted by trees and walls.

Safety Turtle2

Safety Turtle

Safety Turtle Wristband is not a floatation device and does not guarantee the safety of your child, and one still needs to respond to the alarm. Be always aware of the whereabouts of your child whether it is near the bathtub at home or around the neighbor’s swimming pool or on a beach.

Aqua Alert – Water Activated Wristband is an all-electronic band with a simple design that is easy to put on and off. This wristband sounds a high decibel (110 db) alarm when it comes in contact with water. The alarm can be heard up to 150 feet. Some of the features that I liked are – a very simple design and operating mechanism; comes with a lock/key so that kids cannot take it off; and the activated band can easily disengaged just by shaking it. Best of all, the company donates part of the sales proceeding to Justin’s Club, a non-profit organization that cares about prevention of childhood drowning – a noble cause!

aqua alert2

Aqua Alert

Like Safety Turtle Wristband, Aqua Alert Wristband is not a floatation device. Be extra alert if you are in a noisy place, because the surrounding noises can ‘drown’ the sound of the alarm.

When a child is near water, there is no substitution to parental vigilance and supervision.

Please stay tuned for more upcoming articles on safety wearables.

-Meghna Sil

Safety Wearables – Article 2

As I had indicated in one of my previous posts, many swimmers do not desire a conventional life vest while swimming. Moreover, life vests are not permitted in competitive sport. How about a way to ‘tuck’ the life jacket away to minimize interference with your swimming?  SwimIT does exactly that for you. Even though this personal floatation device (PFD) was conceived in 2012 to provide security to the triathlon swimmers, it can serve a purpose in other open water (and indoor pool) sports and activities.

SwimIT primarily consists of a life jacket and a CO2 cartridge tucked in a ‘pouch’ that inflates with the pull of a tab.   To better serve its purpose, the life jacket is tethered to the pouch with a 5 ft. chord and the pouch is strapped to the upper leg.

Some might argue about SwimIT’s size, but its simple and ingenious design lends itself to the ease of repacking of the life jacket and replacement of the CO2 cartridge. Allowing the non-propriety cartridges reduces the dependency on one source (in this case, manufacturer of SwimIT).   Once the life jacket is deployed, a swimmer can strap it around his or her neck and easily swim to the shore.   SwimIT is legal for most of the competitive swim races, including Triathlons and Ironman races. Of course, if deployed during the race, one would be disqualified. In my opinion, it is an easy choice between being disqualified or drowned. What would you choose?

During the swim portion of the triathlon, a number of swimmers have admitted to experiencing panic. Crowded waters, water current, and the adrenaline rush (and sometimes cold temperature) do not help either. Panic attacks can lead to undesired consequences. Having a PFD like SwimIT allows you to focus on the race and a peace of mind that security is within your arms reach.

If I were to use SwimIT, I would:

  • Ensure the ‘pouch’ and the straps fit well
  • Ensure the tab to inflate the life jack is easily reachable
  • Practice inflating the life jacket under different conditions until I feel comfortable
  • Learn to fold and pack the life jacket in the pouch and replace the CO2 cartridge
  • Advise the user to try it out under varying swim conditions, even though the company states that the device is protected against unintended deployment
  • Know the maintenance routine and ensure it always stays deployable

If I had to race in a triathlon or compete in any open water swimming, SwimIT would be my choice of safety device.

I like the simplicity of the design and ease of its use (and reuse).

– Meghna Sil

Safety Wearables – Article 1

As I have indicated in some of my previous articles, technological innovation is another way to address the drowning epidemic. My hats off to the innovators who are helping us to get where swimming and water sports are safe and enjoyable at the same.

In order to be safe, we will need to continue to recognize: (i) swimming (unlike walking and running) is not our natural ability, it is learned; (ii) human body is not as adapt at maneuvering in water as it’s on the land; (iii) water environments are typically ‘harsher’ – lower temperature, water current, etc.; (iv) if faced with an unintended event, one can be more easily rescued while on land than in water.

As swimmers, we all agree – a typical safety swimwear (life vests, inflated armbands, etc.) is not really desirable by a swimmer.  The next best option is to have easy access to something that can be inflated on-demand and quickly.  Kingii, a device released in 2015, is one such option.

Kingii is a relatively lightweight and compact wristband.  This device appears to be relatively less of a hindrance to the swimmer, it is easy to activate, and it can be used for wide variety of water activities.

Kingii primarily consists of balloon-like float and a replaceable CO2 cartridge enclosed in a casing.  Kingii is activated by puncturing a CO2 cartridge; and CO2 in turn inflates the float. The inflated Kingii provides enough buoyancy to bring the swimmer to the surface.  For additional safety, a well-positioned compass is embedded in the wristband and a whistle is attached to it.

Like a number of things in life, one size does not always fit all.  Make an assessment of what work best for you and understand the intended purpose of the device and its strength and the limitations before you use any device.  (i) Kingii may work very well for the adults, but may not be appropriate for a younger child; (ii) the person needs to be conscious in order to deploy the device; (iii) Kingii is very efficient in pulling you up to the surface and keeping you afloat, but it will not get you to the shore.   As a safety advice, Kingii calls out – it should only be worn by experienced swimmers, this is not a replacement for a personal floatation device like life vest, and it does not eliminate the risk of drowning.

Overall, Kingii is very elegantly designed and it definitely can act as a confidence booster.

For those thinking about investing in this device, a few things to consider:

  • In addition to the 2 extra CO2 cartridges available in the package, I would recommend getting extra cartridges upfront.
  • Do a few practice swim rounds with the device tied to your wrist to adapt to it
  • Practice deploying under different water conditions (swimming pools, lakes, ocean, etc.).
  • Regular test checks to ensure the device being always deployable.

Kingii is an interesting name for a safety flotation device. Any guesses on the name?

– Meghna Sil

Innovation – a path to safe swimming

Safety measures, especially in life and death situations, are never enough. Life is priceless, and at any cost should be protected. I strongly believe we, as a society, can and should take all possible steps to save lives.

The statistics of swimming related accidents are staggering. Even if these incidents do not lead to the loss of life, they can result in irreversible physical injuries, mental disorders, neurological disorders, and a life long fear of water. It is even more astonishing how many of the victims are trained swimmers and many of these accidents happen under the ‘watchful eyes’ of guards and other adults. The recent death of a Dartmouth College swimmer in Florida was such a tragedy.

There are organizations around the globe that are invested in water safety. One such organization is the American Red Cross. I would recommend to the readers to visit the Red Cross’s site for well organized swim safety tips, and a free mobile app with safety tips and swim lesson. However, safety tips and lessons on mobile app do not do any good unless one uses his or her judgment and does the right things.

Even though there are organizations like the Red Cross that are doing a commendable job, we still need more involvement at the local level. The local government, and non-profit and for-profit organizations need to get more involved so that ‘no child is left behind’.   We need investment and innovative thinking in water safety in order to enact safety policies and run safety programs. Recently, I published one such article – Yes, Add Swimming to the Public Elementary Schools.

Along with bringing changes to the policies and drawing attention to the safety tips and techniques, we should also pay attention to how we can utilize new and upcoming technology. In the recent past, there have been major technological advancements. Some such advancements are: lightweight and high-strength materials, precise fabrication techniques, miniaturized sensors, and wireless/mobile technologies. These advancements can be ‘assembled’ into safety devices and put to work.

Inflated armbands, ‘noodles’, and such have been there for a long time and they serve a good purpose for kids who are learning to swim; at the same time, they should not be mistaken as safety devices. Inflatable life vest have been used for a long time and have saved many lives. Life vest keeps one from drowning, but one would not wear them to swim. Right now, I am talking about devices that you can wear and effectively swim. There are some cool wearables (but, still with limited capabilities) now available in the market. These devices broadly have two features: mechanism to inflate a ‘balloon’ that prevents one from drowning; and embedded sensors to trigger alarms or send signals to a mobile or remote device.   I will come back at a later time to discuss these devices in more detail (stay tuned!).

An increase in general awareness will bring the best out of the great minds. A little support by the academic and research institutions, and by the for-profit organizations to establish ‘incubators’ and nurture these innovators will go a long way.

Promote innovation with respect to policies as well as application of smart technologies.

– Meghna Sil

Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part III)

Continuing from the previous post…

To be honest, I don’t know what sparked my interest for open water swimming. But over the years, I continued to swim in the open water just for the joy of it. While open water comes with its own challenges, it offers a number of elements of pleasure and opportunity to get closer to nature.

If I can recall correctly, I immediately felt the freshness of the air (no more lingering smell of chlorine) as I entered the water. Just stepping into the water felt liberating! On top of that, there were no constrains of the swim lanes. I’m not sure if it was my imagination or not, I found swimming in the lake more rejuvenating.

The more time I spent in the water, the more comfortable I felt and the more I enjoyed the experience. The waves in the lake had a soothing effect on me. And as I moved away from the shore, the general noise died down and I felt like being gently cradled by the waves when I floated on my back.   I was mesmerized by the vastness of the afternoon sky, the gentle waves in the water, and the tall trees surrounding the lake. All in all, I was soaked in by the tranquility.

After I got comfortable, returning back to the shore was not eventful, but it made me look forward to coming back again (and soon).  Today, as my journey continues in the open water, I still carry the desire to swim in the lake under a starry sky, but that has not happened yet. Perhaps one day.

The experience of swimming in a placid and inland lake is very different from swimming in more turbulent waters (e.g, ocean). Expect additional challenges to be thrown at you, and prepare and train accordingly. No matter what, at the end, open water swimming is rewarding.

If you always wanted to swim in open water and haven’t done it, what’s holding you back? Go ahead, take a plunge and do share your experience. 

Safe swimming!

– Meghna Sil

Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part II)

Continuing from my previous post…

I did not mention a couple of critical safety checks in my previous post…. First and foremost, my first swim in the open water was under adult supervision. Secondly, I did not stray away but kept close to the shore line.

Before embarking on a longer swim stretch, I spent a few days swimming close to the shore to adapt my mind and body to the open water and to establish my baseline. Slowly and surely, under close supervision, I kept venturing further into the deeper waters.

My maiden swim in the lake made me realize a number of things that I took for granted. For example, I was nervous that the bottom of the lake was not as visible as that of the pool. And, the black marker lines at the bottom were gone too.

I continued to wonder how I would be able to swim in a straight line. And of course, every now and then I had to look up to realign (sometimes referred to as open-water sighting). Based on whatever wisdom I have gathered over the years, I should have practiced swimming in straight line with my eyes shut in the pool. Well, now I always mark a tall building or tree in the swim direction before getting into the open water. Over time, it’s relatively easy to master sighting with practice.

As I swam away from the shore, I felt the need to adjust my goggles. But, not having the lane lines to hold on to and being in a territory where the depth was more than my height, it was challenging. I made some makeshift adjustments to the goggles and continued on. I definitely did not have a right pair of goggles.

Freedom of open waters is great but is without the reassuring guiding lanes and lane lines.

I was fortunate enough to have my initial open water experience in a lake where there were few swimmers and rarely any boaters. Having many swimmers and moving boats could potentially add to the anxiety. All things considered, I was having a good time in the open water and at the same time I felt a sense of accomplishment.

More stories, lessons learned and open water safety tips to share as I continue to walk down my memory lane…

– Meghna Sil

Open Water Swimming – my First Experience (Part I)

I have played in the oceans, rivers, and lakes numerous times before. However, jumping into the water and playing with the waves cannot be classified as open-water swimming. Like most of the suburban and city kids in the US, I was introduced to swimming in the closed confines of the swimming pools (mostly indoor and some outdoor).   Once I was little over 7 and was able to make 10+ laps of the standard size pool, my confidence went through the roof and I truly believed that I was prepared for any water. The belief stayed with me for a while until the day of ‘reckoning’ arrived.

It was a late summer afternoon, the sun was still up and I was all geared up in a swimsuit, had my goggles on and for some reason I had decided against the swim cap. I slowly marched into the water of one of the local lakes like a valiant warrior. Hardly a few steps in, I stepped on a hard edgy rock (or something of that sort). I literally had a knee jerk reaction and almost fell on my back.

Expect the unexpected and always be careful where you step. Sharp objects or slippery surfaces are not out of ordinary for any open water bodies.

I regrouped all my courage and I marched along until the water was up to my chest. Then, I let myself go – moving away from the shore with slow strokes. The water in the lake was relatively calm and warm, and swimming wasn’t a struggle. I watched nervously some vegetation floating on water. A few times the thought of my legs getting entangled with ‘under grown’ vegetation and the possibility of coming face-to-face with one of the live creatures of the water crossed my mind. But I was glad, nothing of that sort happened (nevertheless, that is a possibility). So far, so good.

More stories, lessons learned and open water safety tips to share as I continue to walk down my memory lane…

– Meghna Sil