With summer on the doorstep, and virus restrictions being eased, we can finally enjoy getting back to all our summer activities, like cooling off in the pool. However, the return to the pools offers danger as well. Every year, Israel experiences dozens of drownings at both private and public pools, mostly involving children, who are sometimes left under loose supervision. By the time the drowning is discovered, it could already be too late. Israeli company SOSense is developing a new device that can prevent the next pool disaster without the use of cameras.

Recognizing a drowning during the critical moments, before irreversible damage happens

The company’s patent-registered sensor is installed on the walls of the pool, using acoustic technology it learns the pool’s patterns. Meaning, if there are cleaning robots, loud water pumps, noisy filters, etc, then the sensor learns how to tell apart a machine from a human. Next, it compares the patterns to the company’s database and then can identify cases of distress or drowning. In a talk with Geektime, SOSense CEO, and Israeli Navy Seal in Reserves, Ofer Verfel explained that the algorithm can detect someone drowning at a very early stage, even before water enters the lungs when the person drowning still has a critical 2-3 minutes left to be rescued, before irreversible brain damage or at worst, death.

In most cases, parents aren’t even aware that their kids have entered the pool or fell in. Here as well, SOSense registered a patent on this technology that enables the identification of unsupervised individuals and immediately alerts the parents or supervisors.

“Drowning” volunteers to teach the algorithm

In order to get to a place where the acoustic sensor is able to recognize drowning patterns, Verfel explains that Dr. Asaf Frieman, also a former Israeli Navy Seal, combined theoretical medical knowledge of the drowning process with the specific sounds that the body produces while drowning. According to him, these sounds have never been documented. The team recorded these unique sounds during which they “drowned” diving instructors and volunteer former Israeli Navy Seals. “We were the first to record these sounds for doctors. We proved that the sounds are distinct and configurable under certain frequencies,” said Verfel.

Even though there are many competing products on the market, SOSense claims that their sensory systems are inaccurate, because they’re based on accelerometers that lead to many False Positive alerts.
Drowning alert products exist as well for the private pool industry, however, SOSense states that they are mostly video-based that can’t necessarily get a clear image of the swimmers in the pool, and that they detect drowning at too late of a stage when the irreversible brain damage starts to take place.

Investors almost left due to COVID-19, In the end, they decided to stay

SOSense first announced with Geektime that they had completed a Seed Funding round totaled at $1 million, led by Cresson Management and 5 other Angel investors. A little over two years ago the company raised $500,000 as part of their Pre-Seed, led as well by Cresson and part of the Angels who participated in the most recent funding round.

Business Development Director at SOSense, Tal Zuri revealed in a conversation with Geektime that the COVID crisis definitely had a negative effect on funding. “A week before closing the round, 3 investors almost ‘bolted’, stating that because of the situation they won’t participate in the current funding round. Nevertheless, we were able to convince them that our status will not change, in the end keeping them on board.” According to Tal Zuri, the product should hit the market in 2021, and the company’s strategic partner, who’s responsible for distributing the product in the American market, claimed, that because of the COVID scare more Americans, will actually purchase private pools for their homes.

SOSense was founded in 2018 by CEO, Ofer Verfel; CTO, Aviv Farhi; Business Development Director, Tal Zuri; Marine Acoustics Expert, Josef Rott; Diving Medicine Practitioner, Dr. Asaf Frieman; Product & Mechanical Designers Moshe Ben Moshe and Tal Shlomovitz. The company has 10 employees at its offices in Tel Aviv.