No matter how watchful of an eye parents may keep on their small children, it's still possible for those kids to fall into swimming pools, lakes or other bodies of water. The Buddy Life-Collar was designed for such incidents, as it automatically inflates to keep its wearer's head above the surface.

First invented by Tadas Juknius when he was a Materials Sciences PhD student at Lithuania's Kaunus University of Technology, Buddy has been around in prototype form for the past couple of years. It is now being commercially developed by spinoff company Smartmedic.

The 120-gram (4.2-oz) device takes the form of a hinged collar that is worn around the child's neck as they play near the water, and it reportedly doesn't restrict their movements. A built-in moisture sensor detects if they fall in, triggering four airbags to inflate out from Buddy's sides. These deploy within three seconds, which is said to be fast enough to prevent drowning, while not being so rapid that the deployment itself could cause injury.

According to the university, the inflated Buddy then keeps the child's head held out of the water, until they can be rescued. Once they're safe, the collar can simply be taken off.

Smartmedic claims to have received good responses to the prototype at trade shows, and is now moving toward mass production.

The Seal pool safety system also incorporated collars worn by kids, although in its case those collars wirelessly transmitted an alert to a central hub device. It failed to meet its crowdfunding goal.

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