Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths, with an estimated 360 000 deaths worldwide mainly due to ineffective life-saving equipment. Despite these tragic facts, drowning prevention – the equipment involved and mandated by regulators, receives relatively little attention and limited resources. As a result, the category, as a whole, has seen close-to-no evolution over the past 100 years. 84% of drowning tragedies occur as a result of a ‘man overboard’ (MOB) situation where a person accidentally falls into the water either from a moving watercraft (e.g. a boat, ship; referenced as “W” in the following pages) or a water-adjacent structure (e.g. pedestrian bridge, coastal bar/restaurant etc.; referenced as “S” in the following pages).
Customer pain point: the most crucial factor in any of these MOB situations is the time it takes to detect, locate, reach and retrieve the person from the water. Studies related to aquatic rescue operations (e.g. International Life Saving Federation. 2015, Drowning prevention strategies) have reviled a direct correlation between time and success rate as well as address the various challenges that may occur in a MOB situation. Firstly, once the MOB has been detected, it normally takes between 30 seconds and 3 minutes to alert and mobilise the on-site lifeguard team (who are not available on smaller vessels or water-adjacent structures, therefore making them even more dangerous), who would then have to either jump in the water (“S”cases), throw a lifebuoy (S & W cases), or begin deploying a rescue boat (“W”cases). Thirdly, depending on its size and speed, each watercraft has particular ‘stopping distance’. This combined with the cumulative effect of waves and currents forms the total distance that has to be recovered by the rescue team in order to retrieve the MOB. For example, a standard cruise ship travelling at avg speed (23knots/h) has a stopping distance of ~1.5 miles which in practice can range between 5-10 miles depending on the time to detection of the MOB. Finally, we need to pay special attention to S-based MOB situations or smaller vessels (yachts, residential barges, small passenger boats), where there simply is no trained / professional person to jump into the water or deploy the lifesaving equipment.
Overall, the process of rescuing a MOB, from detection to successful retrieval, currently has too many prerequisites (some of which based on chance); involves too many people, steps and interactions, thus resulting in a dangerously long time-to-rescue and increasing the fatality risk. Considering the number of accidents and deaths related to drowning, the growing ship/sailing/cruising industry, and the paramount importance of human safety, we believe there would be a significant market for a product that can address the challenges and ‘pain points’ outlined above.
Our innovation has been made possible by the recent (5 years) advancements in technology (hardware and software) – making CPU chips, sensors and batteries more efficient, significantly smaller, easily accessible and cheaper! This in turn enabled us to incorporate advances sensors, detection algorithms and a propulsion system in our iLifebuoy without affecting its main lifesaving quality – buoyancy.