Innovation & Swimming – Helping Resurface

During the summer of 2015, circumstances brought four like-minded high schoolers with similar interests.  The problem in front of us was – why drowning even among professional triathletes was high and what can be done?

Late night brainstorming and long hours in the labs resulted in a successful and working prototype of an inflatable device that can be worn as an armband and can be easily inflated on-demand by pull of a string. The device is capable of taking a swimmer up to 350 lbs. to safety when the disaster strikes.  ReSurface was born!

– Meghna Sil

Safety Wearables – Article 5

Continuing from the previous articles on swim safety wearables…

As I have said before, different technology enabled swim safety devices cannot necessarily prevent drowning; they can assist with early detection of a swimmer in distress and draw attention of otherwise distracted parents/guards. The technological advances have evolved over the years, but they still have a long way to go.

One of the recent innovations in drowning detection systems is SEAL System. It essentially creates a virtual wireless network between the SealBands (worn by swimmers), GuardBands (worn by lifeguards and/or parents), and a compact, portable, centralized monitoring Hub. One Hub can monitor dozens of SealBands.

When operational, each swimmer band continuously reports its status to the central hub and to the guard/parent bands using radio signals. The hub registers any interruption in signal and if the interruption is over a certain pre-determined time, it sets the alarm in the Hub, the particular SealBand and the GuardBands. The pre-determined time limit is set for each SealBand. When the SealBand is submerged in water, the radio signal to the hub is interrupted. The alarm is highly audible and visual, and it also makes the bands vibrate.

SealBand

One of the perceived downside of this system could be – it does not provide the location of the swimmer in distress. However, once the alarm is triggered the band provides a visual ‘glow’ to easily locate the distressed swimmer. But, it may not be easy in the open turbulent waters.

This drowning detection system runs on rechargeable batteries. You don’t have to throw away the system (or it’s components) once it runs out of battery – that’s good!

As an added safety feature, the alarm goes off when the SealBand is unclasped in the water. And just based on how the system works, the alarm also goes off when a SealBand gets out of range (since the hub would not get any signal) – this can serve to alert the parents when a child wanders away.

As always, ensure the system is in operating condition before you let you child wear the band and jump in the water.


Around water bodies, any time you can’t find your child, it’s best to begin your search in the water before anywhere else.


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

-Meghna Sil

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.

DSC_0877

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