Two Florida doctors invent a device to prevent drownings

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The Florida Department of Children and Families says more children under age 5 die by drowning in Florida than in any other state.

This is something that pediatrician Dr. Phillip Matar knows first hand. During his time as a resident doctor, he was part of a team working to revive a little girl who had drowned in the family pool. The young girl did not survive and when her mother found out she had died, the mother had a seizure and had to be taken to Bayfront Hospital across the street.

Matar said this incident changed his life.

“And I kind of promised myself at that point that I would do everything I could to find a way to stop kids from drowning in swimming pools, because we’ve seen it again and again and again, in our pediatric residency. And you know, that happens every day in the United States, but specifically here in Florida,” Matar said.

His friend, Dr. Ramy Gali, also worked to help a near-drowning 16-year-old, who survived but suffered traumatic brain damage and could never live independently.

Logo for drowning prevention device, Pool Knight

The two doctors teamed up to create a drowning prevention device. They called him Pool Knight.

They worked with a former Lockheed Martin engineer, David May, to design it.

Matar said while the focus is on preventing young children drowning, Pool Knight will also work with older children and vulnerable adults.

“A 16 year old, who is 6ft tall, but has a seizure disorder or has type 1 diabetes and should never be alone at the pool, you can actually through our app turn on the technology facial recognition and with a screenshot of that individual’s face, you can program specific settings for specific people,” Matar said.

Pool Knight has been patented in the United States, Canada and Australia and uses infrared heat sensors, motion sensors, video, audio and artificial intelligence with facial recognition to keep people and animals vulnerable out of the water, sounding an alarm on the spot and sending alerts to connected mobile phones via a dedicated application. But it is not yet available.

“Yes, we are not on the market yet. And the reason we’re not here is that it’s really life or death as far as the device is concerned doing what we want it to do,” Matar said. “And so , we wouldn’t feel comfortable having this there unless we’ve got nearly a year of testing, which we’ll have in the next four months or so.

He said that at that point they will be comfortable saying it’s ready for market. And they already have manufacturers ready to produce Pool Knight on a large scale.

There are other resources and tools to prevent drowning. Among them is the wearable device WAVE, designed so that children can use it while swimming. Learn more here.

Here are some other websites that provide water safety information:

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