Products that win over consumers are the ones which solve old problems through new means. Smart technology is doing just that in the world of sports, in particular with sports helmets. Product companies across the sporting goods spectrum are taking notice of smart helmets that combine utility, safety, and connectivity. In fact, sites like digitaltrends.com already have lists of the top smart helmets on the market and their features. The same technology is spilling out of sports into enterprises, from police forces to construction companies. Take a look at the smart helmet sensors and features that are making sports and working environments safer for users and disrupting the helmet market by creating new business value.
Smart helmets prevent injury on the road and on the field
Injury is a common liability of contact or extreme sports, but smart helmets help reduce the risk. Shock sensors built into helmets or applied as add-ons connect with the internet or an app to alert users whenever a fall turns into something more serious. The Halo helmet utilizes shock sensors to trigger an entire series of alerts: It notifies an emergency reaction unit, then passing on the rider’s location to the crash team.
These sensors also help predict concussion in athletes. Concussions are a serious topic in the American football community, with lawsuits even filed against the NFL for not protecting players from head trauma. Shockbox targets this pain point with its smart sports helmet sensors and the tagline, “know when a hit is too hard”. These sensors help experts detect a concussion early on, in time to provide better medical care. With Riddell, the leading manufacturers of U.S. football helmets, already embracing smart technology and everyone from the NFL to high school football teams interested in lowering concussion rates, smart football helmets could change how consumers and manufacturers think about headgear in contact sports.
Football isn’t the only sport that desperately needs helmet innovation. Equestrians have a higher injury rate per hour of sport than motorcycle racing, football, downhill skiing and other extreme sports. While even non-riders are familiar with Christopher Reeve’s paralysis due to a fall from a horse, 60% or more of horse-related deaths are caused by head injuries – which are also the leading cause of death from sports-related injuries in general. For equestrians, wearing a helmet reduces the risk by 70-80%; It’s not for nothing that helmets are required headgear for professional equestrian athletes, cyclists and others.
Transforming impact data into insight for medical and sports professionals could dramatically lower the rate of sports-related head injury and make sports gear an even more integral part of most people’s athletic experience.
Safety inside and out: Oxygen sensors and vital signs monitoring
Smart helmets can also positively impact users’ health by alerting them to their health stats and keeping them aware of surrounding dangers. Biometric measurements which track the user’s heartrate and send data to a connected app can both estimate calories burned while cycling and improve safety for construction, engineering and mining workers. Heart rate monitors connected to the internet keep managers aware of their employees’ health, and can alert them if someone has difficulty breathing.
Chemical sensors in smart construction helmets or firefighter helmets also alert team members to external dangers such as low oxygen levels or dangerous toxicity levels. Three recent college graduates, prompted by a tragic Indian coal mine fire in 2012, developed a smart mining helmet with a smoke detector that raises an alarm when oxygen levels drop or poisonous gases are detected.
Another company, Daqri, touts its smart helmet as a “tool for the 21st century worker”. with ‘thermal vision’, i.e. temperature tracking and recording, along with augmented reality visuals that let workers receive information efficiently, helping companies reduce costs while increasing efficiency and monitoring. Companies manufacturing helmets with these sensors have strong reason to expect a high ROI for the relatively cheap implementation of this potentially life-saving technology.
Sound and audio entertainment
Sound and smart audio features double as life-saving tools and entertainment add-ons. Smart helmets keep riders entertained and safer with hands-free audio. Helmets with an attached microphone and Bluetooth connectivity let riders talk hands-free and safely listen to music on the road. One company, Sena, covers the gamut of audio features with a four-way intercom, playlist, and call capabilities. Livall’s latest sports helmet contains the same features, along with video capture, performance tracking, and smart lighting. Coros Lynx takes sound a step further and lets riders listen to music without blocking out important surrounding traffic noise.
Smart helmet performance tracking: Measure height, speed, distance – and never get lost again
Not every smart feature needs to target health and safety. Show jumpers in equestrian sports and dirt bike jump enthusiasts can measure the height they reach with accelerometers in smart helmets. GPS is another important smart component that, like an accelerometer, adds considerable value to the helmet, without adding noticeable weight or changing the helmet’s appearance. With GPS-integrated helmets, riders, cyclists and miners (to name a few) always know their location, and so do emergency response teams, managers and fellow users. Friends on a road trip can plan trips together, note each other’s location on the connected app, and share good routes with one another.
GPS, height sensors, and other measurement sensors combine to measure user’s performance, an asset for both serious and amateur athletes. Cyclists can check their speed and distance on the same app that alerts them to traffic; equestrians can track jumps or speed using the same equipment that alerts a family member if they fall or injure themselves.
A video camera is another important tool for assessing events retroactively. Imagine if video cameras in cycling and biking helmets became the norm; the number of traffic-related lawsuits would go down by half. Cyclists and horse riders could play back critical moments to assess and improve their performance.
A video camera also provides valuable feedback for enterprise professionals, from policemen to construction and maintenance workers, by giving them and their teams a second eye. These smart components combined create the ultimate performance tracking machine.
The smart payoff for helmet companies
Fusar’s new smart helmet typifies the fate of smart helmets. The company, founded in 2013, recently launched a smart helmet kit with an emergency response system, GPS and camera. Fusar revealed its smart cycling helmet earned $150,000 in net revenue in 2016 alone. That’s pretty impressive for a high-end cycling helmet that retails at $499 (including a headset, camera and handlebar remote), and from a small, new company, no less. It will be interesting to see how retail prices change once more smart helmets diversify the market.
The importance of safety crosses industries. It’s a matter of months, and not years, before their undeniable value to users creates a loud demand across industries – one which manufacturers will have to meet.