Accidental drowning deaths are a plague of the summer months, and one of the top five causes of death in children under 14. Health professionals, parents, and activists have been working to raise awareness that drowning can happen quickly and quietly, even in the presence of lifeguards.
In the US, a majority of fatal drownings in children occur in home swimming pools, according to the CDC. Common prevention methods, often mandated by law, include restricting access to residential pools by creating physical barriers, placing safety covers or netting, and installing security cameras or pool alarms that warn of unauthorized entry into the pool or the perimeter of the pool.
“These safety rails are insufficient,” claims Shadie Bisharat, CEO of Israeli startup Coral Smart Pool (formerly Coral Detection Systems), the developer of a pool device that can track and monitor swimmers and detect potential drownings in pools, sending urgent alerts to operators.
Coral Smart Pool was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Eyal Golan (not the famous, controversial Israeli singer) and Dr. Tamar Avraham, and is named after Coral Sheri, an 11-year-old Israeli girl who fatally drowned with her friend Or Koren in the private swimming pool of her Savyon home in 2014.
Following the tragic incident, Golan, a homeland security expert, looked for technology to secure his own private swimming pool but came up empty-handed. He co-founded the company a short while later to harness advanced technology in the fight against accidental drownings.
Coral set out to develop a safety and detection mechanism that goes further than most detection products available on the market, Bisharat told The Times of Israel in a recent interview.
Most can “tell you that someone entered the pool but not much beyond that,” he said. Coral uses sensors and above-pool and underwater cameras to continuously monitor people in the pool and detect signs and movements of drowning using artificial intelligence (AI) and computer vision. It comes with a separate home unit that can receive alerts and an accompanying app that can view inside the pool.
After a three-year pilot stage with a beta product, Coral is launching its newest device, Mylo, touted as a “virtual lifeguard” for residential swimming pools.
The device, said Bisharat, has been trained on hundreds of hours of videos showing real people in water distress, as well as simulated scenarios of drowning, that make up the company’s propriety software. “We’ve been doing this training since 2018 and have accumulated a great amount of data — four years’ worth — that makes the device smarter. So we have that advantage,” he said.
The company has filed a number of patents for its technology.
Bisharat says Coral operates in the IoT (internet of things) ecosystem, specifically smart pools, but is the only company with cameras underwater, its main differentiator.
“We have a product that has proven itself in the market in the pilot stage and for which there is great demand. It is the only product that monitors activity inside the pool,” he explained.
Mylo can detect two types of drownings, Bisharat said. “One where people sink to the bottom — like young children — and one where they show signs of distress, or pre-drowning.”
He stresses that the device does not in any way replace close adult supervision for children but works as an extra safety layer that can quickly alert them of danger via the accompanying app.
Bisharat joined Coral earlier this year after more than 15 years in the automotive and mobility industry as an executive in companies with global branches, and serves as the director of the board at the Israeli Leadership Forum, an organization that brings together entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and government officials.
“After 15 years in the automotive space, I wanted to do something good like helping to save lives,” he said.
Bisharat is currently leading a broader vision for the company he described as “saving lives first, enhancing lives second.”
Coral’s Mylo device is outfitted with a number of features ranging from water quality monitoring for things like debris and chemical levels to lifestyle and wellness applications.
“It can things like control water temperatures, monitor filters, determine water quality and health, and also count laps of a person swimming, for example, calculate calories burned, and even take selfies,” said Bisharat.
The company’s main market is the US, home to some 10 million swimming pools, both private and public.
Bisharat said the US residential pool market is growing quickly, especially post-pandemic, and is likely to double in the next few years.
Coral will offer two models for the Mylo; a one-time purchase of approximately $1,000-$1,500 or a service (subscription) model with monthly fees, free updates and a connection to a control room that will handle emergencies, “much like alarm companies do,” said Bisharat.
“Such a service is also applicable to small community pools or shared pools” in residential areas, he added. Coral hopes to begin launching the subscription model in 2024.
The startup employs about a dozen people, mainly in Israel, home to Coral’s R&D operations in Binyamina. It has a small sales division in the US.
Coral has raised about $6 million in venture capital.