by Stefanie Crucius

March 30, 2016

Wearable Airbags to Protect Seniors, Motorcyclists, Skier and Cyclists

What is a standard in the automotive industry could also become common in our daily routine – at least for seniors and for people performing (action) sports with a high risk of falling.

Wearable Airbags could be a great step for seniors to live independently for a longer time. According to CDC each year, 2.5 million older people have to be treated in emergency departments due to fall injuries. Over 700,000 patients a year have to go to hospital because of a fall injury – mostly because of a head injury or hip fracture. Besides the restrictions in daily life, the treatment resulting in falls can cause enormous costs. And not all of them are covered by insurances.

ActiveProtective developed a belt that automatically inflates airbags over the hip when the sensors detect a fall. According to their website 1-in-3 people over the age of 65 will fall every year. Tests show that their device can reduce the impact force by 90%. The algorithm determines the event of a fall by the absence of stereotypical human motion. The company closed a $2.4 million funding and announced a cooperation with Key Safety Systems (KSS), a leading global supplier of advanced engineered safety products for automotive and non-automotive markets in January this year. Future applications aim at sports, equestrian, high-risk occupational and military.

Hip-Hope™, from Israel, is a smart belt-like device reducing the impact to the hips during fall by inflating two large-size airbags. The system, more specifically the sensors and algorithm, makes it possible to distinguish between real falls and misleading fall-like events. The device includes an automatic remote fall alert transmission, motion and pre-fall data logging, and a self-operated emergency button. Hip-Hope™ will be available at the end of the year in Europe and the USA. The price will be based on a monthly service model.

Wolk plans to release their first prototype in the first quarter of 2017 at a target price of about $470. The Dutch company works on an ergonomically shaped belt-like device which can be hidden underneath most clothing and that way can be worn unobtrusive. A feedback speaker makes sure that the device is worn correctly.

WOLK Proof of Principle Short from WOLK on Vimeo.

Another obvious market for wearable airbags is the sports market. Especially motorcyclists can benefit from the live-saving new technologies decreasing the impact forces during the event of a fall by up to 85%.

WT | Innovation World Cup finalist 2014/15 Alpinestars for example offers comprehensive upper body protection including back, shoulders, kidney area and chest without restricting comfort or design. There are two styles: Vapariaso ($775) for touring and Viper ($420) for the street. The vest with the system itself is available for about $1450 and can be exchanged between both types. The system is self-contained, does not require any pre-configuration and can be used on any machine. The algorithm is based on the knowledge that a rider’s body remains stable until the point when an accident develops. The system detects an impact between 30-60 milliseconds; and will fully inflate in 25 milliseconds. The battery lasts over 25h and needs 1h charging for four hours riding time.

Dainese has created several airbag solutions for different purposes since 2004, in various styles and also for professional motorcyclist. Recently they celebrated 1000 deployments of the D-air® system with the new D-AIR® MISANO 1000. In contrast to their former products, the jacket is a stand-alone system and there is no need to attach the former M-kit with sensors to your bike. The inner micro-filament structure provides uniform inflation of 5cm over all surfaces to provide maximum protection and comfort. The triggering algorithm utilizes six sensors housed in the back protector to monitor the dynamics of the rider’s body 800 times a second and determines when to deploy the system in the event of impacts, high-sides and low-slides with tumbling. The jacket protects chest, collar bone and limits excessive strain to the neck. The jacket is available at the price of about USD 1,700.

Dainese also recently launched the D-Air Ski System which we featured in a snowboarding and ski article last year and we already reported about the POC and In&motion Spine VDP 2.0 Airbag Vest in another article this March.

You are not an action sports fan, but are safety conscious and want to feel safe on the streets? Then Hövding might be perfect for you. Their airbag cycle helmet claims to offer the best shock absorption worldwide. Advanced sensors detect situations and movements that don’t happen in the cycling context. In the event of an accident the airbag inflates and fixates your neck. It looks like a hood and is made in an ultra-strong nylon fabric that won’t rip when scraped against the ground. The fabric shell protects the device and can also change the design to match to your outfit. Battery life is about 9 hours. Their new device 2.0 costs about USD 340, is also adapted to more types of bikes such as mini bicycles and folding bikes, is more lightweight and more comfortable to wear.