Israeli AI device ‘watches’ swimming pools to prevent drowning accidents

As winter gradually gives way to spring in the coming months, Israeli families with private swimming pools will slowly start dreaming of enjoying a refreshing splash once again.  

While for the vast majority, pools provide a way to cool off from the summer sun, 2018 was overshadowed by the tragic increase of children and adults who drowned at home.  

After unsuccessfully searching for a drowning detection solution for his own private pool, entrepreneur and homeland security expert Eyal Golan partnered with computer vision specialist Dr. Tamar Avraham in 2014 to establish Haifa-based Coral Drowning Detection Systems and prevent the tragedies that strike dozens of Israeli families and many more worldwide every year.  

Their first-of-its-kind, patent-pending Coral Manta system constantly “watches” and detects movement in private pools using a built-in underwater video camera, computer vision and artificial intelligence technology.  

When it identifies a potential drowning situation, it sounds an ear-piercing alarm and immediately sends a smartphone alert to all household members.  

“When we started developing Coral Manta, we had three major principles in mind,” Golan told The Jerusalem Post. “It has to be affordable, it has to be very reliable and precise in detecting real events, and it has to be a plug-and-play system. All you have to do is mount two screws on the corner of the pool and the system is stable and safe.”  

Two months after they started developing the product, two 10-year-old girls – Coral Sheri and Or Koren – drowned in a private swimming pool in Savyon. The company was named in their memory.  

The company harnesses the latest deep learning technology to ensure maximum detection rates and very few false alarms, in a similar manner to advanced surveillance technology and self-driving vehicles. In this case, however, movement must be detected underwater.  

“In surveillance cameras, the technology assumes that the surroundings don’t move,” Avraham said “But the water moves all the time. We had to develop ways to notify the user if the water becomes cloudy, and add other sensors to operate in the dark.”  

The system primarily relies on solar power, operates 24/7 and has undergone rigorous testing to ensure it is fully waterproof, resistant to swimming pool chemicals and can withstand both soaring summer temperatures and freezing winter weather.  

The detection technology was tested, the company says, in thousands of scenarios simulating both child and adult drowning events, in a wide range of swimming pools. Contrary to popular belief, drowning is usually silent and undramatic.

“Of course, no system – especially when working with a single sensor – can offer 100% protection,” Golan said. “Even at airports and borders, you typically have layers of security as all systems have their flaws. It’s the same thing with pool safety. Coral Manta is not meant to replace adult supervision, but to fill the gap when you are distracted and compensate for our human flaws.”  

While medical professionals believe irreversible brain damage starts to occur after approximately five minutes without oxygen, the Coral Manta alarm system starts working within seconds to enable quick assistance and resuscitation if needed.  

Other pool alarms currently on the market aim to prevent unauthorized access rather than operating when people are actually using the pool. Most drownings occur, however, when access to the pool is allowed. 

“Coral Manta is the most important safety layer ever created for the private pool environment,” said Golan. “There are simply no drowning detection systems for private pools. Those for public pools assist lifeguards, and there are so many false alarms. For residential pools, this is the only drowning detection system available.”  

The company is currently expanding their global reach through distributors in Australia, the US and other countries. Priced at $2,000, customers can also order the product online through the company’s website.

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