It can’t be easy, being a lifeguard at a pool full of children. The kids that catch your attention are going to be the ones who are splashing and yelling, whereas the ones that you really need to look for could be silently slipping below the surface, where they won’t be seen or heard. North Carolina-based emergency physician Graham Snyder decided that those potential drowning victims needed more attention drawn to their predicament, so he created the Seal system.
Snyder attended to one particular incident, in which a six year-old girl drowned in a backyard pool. She was surrounded by various other people at the time, but no one noticed that she had sank to the bottom of the pool until it was too late. If only there was some way in which people could have been alerted as soon as she’d been underwater for an unsafe amount of time, she might still be alive.
Thus it was that Seal was invented.
The system consists of waterproof SealBands that are clasped loosely around the necks of swimmers, GuardBands worn by lifeguards or other supervising adults, a portable hub unit that sits near the pool, and a battery charger.
The SealBands, GuardBands and hub form a wireless network with one another, all communicating via a radio signal. Whenever one of the bands is immersed more than a couple of inches below the surface, it ceases to communicate with the other devices, and the network is broken. Sensing this interruption, those other devices begin a countdown, and a warning is issued to the GuardBands. If the submerged band resurfaces before that countdown is complete, everything goes back to normal. If it doesn’t, however, then sound, light and vibrating alarms go off on the other bands and the hub.
While the system doesn’t point out the location of the troubled swimmer, it does at least let everyone know that someone needs help, so they can look for them. Additionally, the alarms will also go off if a band is unclasped while still in the water, or if a wearer swims out of range of the network.
Because not everyone has the same swimming (or breath-holding) skills, the amount of time that a band can remain underwater before issuing a warning or alarm can be set individually on each band – there are four settings to choose from. This means that a relatively fit 10 year-old won’t be hampered by the same settings as required by a water wing-wearing baby.
Snyder and his team are currently raising production funds for the Seal system, on Indiegogo. A pledge of US$149 will get you a complete single-swimmer set-up, when and if they’re ready to go. Packages with multiple bands for multiple swimmers are also available at larger pledge levels.
More information is available in the pitch video below.