Anyone who has served as a swimming lifeguard has experienced the limits of viewing a broad area of water or underwater, maintaining a constant level of vigilance, or quickly discerning the sounds of children having fun versus those in trouble. The fact is, human senses consist of a relatively narrow band of perceptual possibility, and even a trained lifeguard’s ability to constantly maintain optimal sensory attention is limited.
Additionally, no two drownings occur in the same way, so looking for the correct risk “event” is challenging. For example, discerning the difference between a drowning and underwater swimming is a challenge. Moreover, the common perception is a drowning occurs with splashing and loud cries. Often drownings occur when swimmers simply slip beneath the waterline with no commotion at all.
Moreover, lifeguards deal with many things at once time, and swimmers act differently during different times. Its surprisingly easy for a potential drowning event or an actual drowning event to go unnoticed, even by experienced lifeguards.
With that in mind, the WAVE Drowning Detection System (WAVE DDS), (see WaveDDS.com), augments human perception using Bluetooth-enabled Internet of Things (IoT) wearable technology to “support and enhance” the lifeguarding function.
The limitations and implications of relying on human senses alone to prevent drownings are underscored by data from the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting “88% of child drownings occur under some form of supervision,” and drowning is the “second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children ages 1 to 14 years…” (CDC, 2012).
Moreover, whether for adult swimmers or children, in pools or natural waters settings, rural cabin or urban settings, supervised or unsupervised, WAVE DDS specifically, and Bluetooth® IoT in general, has the capability to dramatically augment human senses in the service of swim safety.
Overcoming Obstacles to Safety: Device Form, Bluetooth Range and Connectivity event.
Like the introduction of seatbelts in cars, getting the technology right, so a safety device is accepted by people is important. Notably, Bluetooth sensors with their low-energy requirement and low profile are an ideal sensor type for IoT wearables and safety devices.
That means Bluetooth IoT has the unique capability to facilitate added swim safety without over-burdening a wearable’s “fun factor” with technology.
In the case of Bluetooth swim-safety devices employed by WAVE DDS, swimmers very quickly acclimate to the “trackers” as they are very light-weight and worn around the back of the head.
The Bluetooth sensors in the ends are positioned near the swimmer’s temples. Should both ends submerge the Bluetooth signal is completely interrupted indicating a swimmer’s face is submerged. This signals a countdown (safety experts suggest 20-30 seconds) and the WAVE DDS notification system alerts lifeguards that a swimmer is in a zone of risk.
However, while the Bluetooth-enabled swim tracker design is a form factor accepted by swimmers, full deployment of the system had a technical limitation. Specifically, the WAVE DDS ability to scale to a commercial system was hampered by Bluetooth’s limited number of simultaneous connections and range limits of 30-100 feet. For example, a previous iteration of the WAVE DDS system was limited to a few Bluetooth connected safety trackers connected to iPhones. While having some limited applicability, the solution was not scalable as an enterprise solution to the increasingly common large-scale swimming settings, such as: splash pools, municipal water programs, large pools, summer camps or similar settings.
The WAVE DDS system needed a long-range, multiple connectivity Bluetooth gateway, noted WAVE DDS CEO Dave Cutler, to support the dozens and hundreds of connected Bluetooth beacons in safety trackers. This challenge was addressed with the use of the Cassia Networks Bluetooth IoT gateway and access controller (AC) solution with its patented long-range Bluetooth and multi-connectivity.
“Cassia Networks long-range Bluetooth gateway of many hundreds of feet represented the final door opening enabling tracking of many dozens if not hundreds of Bluetooth beacons. We’re able to track many sensor signals at one time, and do it at a great range,” noted Cutler.
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