Experimental wearable pops its top to send drowning alerts

While lifeguards serve a vital purpose, it can sometimes be difficult for them to keep an eye on all the swimmers, all the time. An experimental new device has been designed to help, by sending an alert if its wearer is drowning.

Currently in rather chunky prototype form, the wrist-worn gadget is being developed by a team at Australia’s Macquarie University. It’s called APPTRAKK, and it incorporates sensors that monitor the wearer’s heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and movement patterns, along with the depth at which it’s currently located and the amount of time that it’s been there.

All of this data is continually processed by an AI-based onboard operating system, which determines if the combined readings indicate that the person may be drowning.

If such proves to be the case, a Wi-Fi transmitter module on the device pops loose and floats to the surface. It then transmits a signal to an app on the lifeguard’s paired smartphone or tablet, which both sounds an alarm and displays the swimmer’s location in the pool. Sending that signal from the main submerged device isn’t likely to work, as radio waves don’t travel well through the water.

Of course, depending on factors such as age and fitness level, the heart rate, etc which indicate that one person is drowning may not apply to another. For this reason, the app can be used to manually program in the thresholds for all of the metrics, beneath which no false alarms will be sounded.

Along with its use by lifeguards in public pools, the device could also be utilized by parents to monitor their children in backyard pools. There are in fact other wearables that serve this very purpose, although APPTRAKK appears to take a more sophisticated approach to doing the job.

Plans now call for the device to be made much more compact and streamlined, after which it may be commercialized.

A paper on the research, which is being led by Dr. Mohsen Asadnia, was recently published in the journal Sensors. APPTRAKK is demonstrated in the following video.

Macquarie researchers invent anti-drowning device

Source: Macquarie University

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