Florida pediatrician, doctor and engineer team up to create device to help prevent child drownings

A Tampa Bay pediatrician teamed up with others to create a device that helps prevent child drownings after seeing a rise in Florida. The device warns parents before their child has the chance to fall in the pool. 

When a child drowns, it looks different from what’s depicted in the movies. Pediatrician Phillip Matar said it happens quickly and quietly.

"We had a young girl who was brought in three years old, tiny little girl, and she was found in the pool at home," said Matar, who lives in the Tampa area. "I was actually the last person to do chest compressions on her before time of death was called, and it was such a hard thing to stop."

That experience stuck with him, so Matar teamed up with Florida doctor Ramy Gali and an engineer to create a knight that watches over children, the Pool Knight. It’s a prototype for drowning prevention. 

"Our goal is to detect when there is a chance that someone could be potentially drowning and prevent them from even getting to the water by sounding an alert at the cell phone, through our app and through the Pool Knight device if movement is detected," said Matar. 

The cameras and thermal sensors only send alerts when a life depends on it. Pool Knight engineer David May called cutting out the false alarms crucial.

"There are the big things that we focused on was eliminating false positives. There are many other surveillance-type cameras systems out there, that any time anything moves, a newspaper is thrown on your front porch, it picks up those things and gives you an alert. We want to eliminate that type of stuff," said May. "That's why, aside from other sensors, we brought in the thermal camera, to make sure that only human bodies and animals are detected. The alert that goes to you is high confidence that it's not wasting your time that it's a pool toy."

In Florida, state numbers show 48 children drowned so far in 2022, five children in Hillsborough County which is the highest number in the Tampa Bay region. In 2021, 98 children drowned statewide

"Pool fences, door alarms, door locks, they're great, and they're fantastic, and you need them, but they're not enough," said Matar. 

With patents secured in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, the next step is going mainstream to production.

"So we are looking to work with anyone, whether they be an investor, a corporation," said Matar.  

Drowning is the number one killer for kids under five years old, and the device looks to change the trend.

"It's very, very crucial to alert the caregiver before the child even touches the water. And that's why we say drowning prevention is crucial so much more than drowning detection," said Matar.

The Pool Knight inventors said their device is primarily for home pools, but they are also working on a commercial model that homeowner’s association pools or condominium pools could use. The next step is getting funding, so they can roll out their invention.