SEAL Is Remote Monitoring Tech for Safety this Summer in the Pool

SEAL SwimBandFor emergency department physician Graham Snyder, MD, one of the most psychologically challenging parts of losing a child to drowning is that in almost every case he knows exactly how it happened.

“Healthy, happy and young is just not supposed to die. One of the frustrations about drowning is that it’s so repetitive, and I almost hate to say it’s predictable,” he said.

Mourning parents have told him that they looked away for one second and just like that, their child was gone. But Snyder knows that’s not how it happened because drowning doesn’t occur so quickly. Which doesn’t make it any more the fault of the parents or whoever was on the lookout. The norm around the swimming pool is noise and movement — children laughing, splashing, screaming and jumping.

“Then they’re supposed to notice the one child who’s silent, who is no longer in view, and he’s not moving,” Snyder said. “They’re trying to notice the thing that’s unnoticeable.”

That’s why Snyder and a team of engineers went to work to create a monitoring device to alert lifeguards, parents and other onlookers to a potentially dangerous situation. They designed the SEAL, a waterproof device that is worn around the neck and connects back to a hub positioned near the lake or pool. If a child is under water and the SEAL band is submerged for too long, an alarm will sound.

Anyone who’s taken a tumble from a hard-hitting wave, or who has been held under water by an older brother, knows the uncomfortable feeling of being unable to breathe for too long. But there is a significant amount of time between that feeling and actually going into cardiac arrest, Snyder explained. His strategy is to take advantage of the time period between the point when a child feels that he or she is drowning and the point where cardiac arrest is imminent.

There are levels built-in to account for how good of a swimmer the SEAL band wearer might or might not be. The device settings can be programed for a non-swimmer all the way up to a competitor level. “When you reach a threshold where our algorithms say there’s no way the kid’s doing this for fun, yet there’s still time to rescue them, then that’s when you get your alarm.”

Snyder’s idea came not just out of his experience as a pediatric emergency department physician, but also out of concern for his own children. The way SEAL was worked from concept to reality is becoming increasingly common in the world of entrepreneurship. Today, when sometimes a civilian’s good idea can become a business, many can move more quickly from idea to prototype using 3D design software. In this case, Snyder’s team used Autodesk’s 3D design technology.

“Every step of the way, the tools are critical to be able to share these ideas, to be able to walk through the thinking and kind of validate the product as we created it. From 2D sketches, we needed to move into 3D very quickly,” Charlie Hunt, SEAL’s head of design and innovation, said.

Now that summer has arrived, the team will be testing the SEAL band and likely tinkering with its design. Snyder said it’s important that the system is tested in every possible scenario. “We have to make sure that nothing is discovered that we haven’t thought of yet.”

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