Outdoors

Smart smartwatch band deploys airbags to keep its wearer from drowning

Smart smartwatch band deploys airbags to keep its wearer from drowning
A model of a possible commercial version of the T-1 wristband
A model of a possible commercial version of the T-1 wristband
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A model of a possible commercial version of the T-1 wristband
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A model of a possible commercial version of the T-1 wristband

While most people wear a PFD (personal floatation device) when boating, such is typically not the case when they're swimming in open water. A new prototype wristband is designed for such scenarios, as it features floatation airbags that can be manually deployed if needed.

Known as the T-1, the device was invented by Steven R. Tsitas, who holds a Masters of Science degree in Astronautics and Space Engineering from Britain's Cranfield University. He was inspired to create the gadget after getting caught in a riptide when swimming off an isolated beach in Baja California, Mexico.

The idea is that people would wear the device (which is intended to double as a smartwatch band) when performing activities such as swimming or surfing. They could also use it – along with a PFD – in any situation where there's a chance that they may unexpectedly find themselves in the water.

The T-1 contains two inflators – one to either side of its face – that are shaped to follow the curve of the band. Folded on top of each inflator is a polymer airbag, which sits beneath a protective external cover.

Pushing a button on the T-1 electrically ignites a solid gas-generant material in the inflators, rapidly producing gas that fills the airbags. As they inflate, they pop off the cover, allowing them to float at the surface while remaining attached to the band. It's the same process by which automotive airbags work, although it's designed to take place a bit slower – in a matter of seconds as opposed to milliseconds.

Once the airbags are deployed, they provide a combined 10 kg (22 lb) of buoyancy, which is the same as most PFDs. The user can then fold their arm in and tuck one bag under each armpit, proceeding to either float in place or swim on their back. They can also swim on their front, with their T-1-equipped arm extended forward in the manner that it would be if they were swimming while holding onto a flutter board.

Tsitas tells us that he doesn't intend to commercially produce the T-1 himself, but is interested in licensing the technology to companies such as smartwatch manufacturers. They can reach him via his startup, Cetus Design.

"Our device is designed as an emergency backup in case you find yourself in distress in the water without a lifejacket," he says. "It’s like a reserve parachute. As they say, the best lifejacket is the one you’re wearing when you need one."

You can see a test of one of the rough proof-of-concept models, in the video below.

Smartwatch emergency flotation device ocean test

15 comments
15 comments
Spud Murphy
This thing could save a lot of lives...
zort
Yeah, they seem to work pretty well when you're standing in shoulder deep water.
Now try swimming any distance with them.
KaiserPingo
Well, makes it easier to find the drowned person, with the hand floating on the surface...
I´m disapointed that the smartwatch doesnt sound an alarm and flashes.
Steven
We heard that a lot before doing the video of the prototype test: your hand would be floating on the surface while you would still drown. After doing the prototype test we proved that even though the airbags were connected to one wrist they could easily be placed into a position of passive stable buoyancy. As the video shows. Surprised to still see such a comment when the video proves otherwise, must not have watched the video.

Perfect for integration with satellite relayed emergency communication signals, such as now available on iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models models.
Steven
@zort
I'm treading water, you can actually just see the outline of my legs moving furiously and prior to activation I'm using my right arm as well to assist with treading water. When I use my right hand to press the activation button (and therefore can’t use my right arm to assist in treading water) you can see that I drop lower in the water. I’m floating not standing, I made sure I was out far enough so I could do a realistic test of someone floating in water.

In any case, even if I was standing what difference would it make to the demonstration? After the bags inflate I am obviously floating in the water supported by the bags. It is also obviously possible to press a button on a watch on one wrist with a finger from the other hand if you are floating in water.
Steven
@zort
If you’ve ever almost drowned you’ll know that you would give almost anything just for a way to keep your head above water. That’s why a drowning person may in a panic push a rescuer that swims up to them under water by pushing down on their shoulders, so they can get their mouth above the water. This device gives you that lift up out of the water and can save you from drowning. That is its primary function. Swimming with it is possible but is a secondary function. I'm not sure how easy it is to swim in a lifejacket either?
guzmanchinky
It's so good to see Steven clap back at the "experts" on here who seem to know way more than the engineers trying to improve our world. As a boater, I never wear a life jacket, but if I unexpectedly hit something and get chucked into the water I would be VERY glad to have ANYTHING to hold on to in rough water or with a leg broken or being knocked silly...
ljaques
I can hear the comments now. "Hey, that looks just like one of those ankle bracelets the cops use for tracking criminals. Are you a criminal?"
They might be good for people who can't swim, but learning to swim would be the best bet for everyone in this water world of ours.
josefaber
Properly worn PFDs are designed to float an
unconscious person upright with the head above water.
I would never trust my life this 007 style toy.
Steven
@ljaques
You can know how to swim and still drown if you have to keep your head above water for long enough and get tired, or get a cramp, or the water is rough, or you lose strength from the cold, or you have an injury, etc. There is a reason lifejackets were invented and have remained a thing for 168 years and counting.

As for the aesthetics, that’s subjective, and you’re entitled to your opinion. We had inadvertent feedback on the mockup when the model in the picture was feeding a parking meter on arrival at the photoshoot, and was wearing the mockup and a young woman walking by, seeing it on her outstretched wrist said “Nice watch!”. People sometimes wear thick bangles on their wrists as jewelry, do these remind you of ankle monitor bracelets too?
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