Seal system aims to keep kids from drowning


May 24, 2013

The Seal system consists of neckbands worn by swimmers, designed to sound an alarm if anyone is in danger of drowning

The Seal system consists of neckbands worn by swimmers, designed to sound an alarm if anyone is in danger of drowning

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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.

Source: Indiegogo

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Good invention.

Mark A

I have a better idea teach kids how to swim and change the education system so that they aren't coddled such that they have no common sense. This would solve most drowning issues


Hm, Squidfish. I was a good swimmer when I almost drowned in a pool at a party in California, aged 14. I'd learned to swim in the salty Atlantic, and the freshwater pool had very different buoyancy. Dr Snyder's invention would have meant I was pulled out early, rather than being dark blue when I was finally noticed and dragged to the side.


@squidfish: That is a remarkably uninformed statement.

There are many situations in which a skilled swimmer can drown even in a tame pool. I nearly drown when I was 10 despite being an excellent swimmer who had been swimming since I was 2 and being possessed of better "common" sense than other 10 year olds in my neighborhood. I got a leg caught in a pool ladder and the six other people in the pool didn't notice. If holding my breath wasn't one of the self challenges I had I'd at least have had an ER visit possibly worse as I was under for over a minute. My son had a similar indecent to what they describe here. He was playing on the steps to the pool stepped off the last step unprepared for the fact that the water was higher than his head and was in trouble. If I wasn't one of those parents who looks at his child every few seconds he'd have gone under. The life guard and the others in the pool didn't notice him until I was over the edge pulling him out.

So swimming "skill" can reduce the risk but not eliminate it. Given the consequences if this occurs anything that can further reduce this risk is good. I personally think something like this is long overdue. I just wish it came in a better form factor.


Poseidon probably does a better job, since individual swimmers dont have to remenber to use it.


A great idea.

Edgar Castelo

what about a balloon that can popup attached to the swimmer for quick rescue help activated by depth, no radio, but easy to see on surface and could even have a whistle in top of it

science ninja

To improve on science nijna's suggestion, how about an inflatable vest or inflatable necklace instead of a balloon, to keep the victim's head above the water?


Ben, one note...

The distressed swimmer's band flashes a very bright LED light in the center of the band. The LED is bright enough to be seen in full noon day sun. The LED visually helps rescuers locate the distressed swimmer. (in full disclosure, I work for the SEAL company -

Science ninja and ezeflyer - I'll pass your ideas on to the engineers.


From the CDC's Website: ....From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. [...] About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.....

...Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. ... Among children ages 1 to 4, most drownings occur in home swimming pools...

Remember, this also includes those drownings caused by a kid sticking their head in a bucket, or being left alone in a bathtub also.

That means this device is trying to solve less than 365 deaths per year when over 70% of said deaths are of children that have never learned to swim in the first place.

Another note: ....A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.....

So even if somehow this device was equipped at EVERY YMCA in the united states, and handed out to EVERY child that ever swims there (at a cost of 150$/device) it sounds like SEAL is likely to make a big chunk of money on a small problem.

And for home use, most older children who drown while swimming have never taken formal lessons and tend to be from poor families, which means yet again this device wouldn't be helpful.

Also, considering most drownings are caused by inebriated adults and adolescents, who would likely never even consider wearing this "fashion statement", it doesn't support the LARGER problem.

now, make this device around 15$ and you might have yourself a market. Otherwise, that money would be better invested in EDUCATION rather than profits for a small few.

(Just as an aside, I too have nearly drowned on 2 seperate occasions, but in both cases I was able to handle the situation myself. Accidents are accidents and they will continue to happen no matter how much we bubble wrap our world. It is more important to teach our kids the RISKS of the activities they will be performing and how best to mitigate them, rather than sheltering them from those risks)

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