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smart bike helmet

Photo by LifeBeam

From breaking the sound barrier to breaking personal fitness records, the SMART helmet is using fighter pilot technology to deliver complex body data in the blink of an eye.

And while fitness trackers like the Nike FuelBand are getting smarter and more efficient, fitness tracking is still not totally intuitive: Strapping a heart monitor to the chest, a timing clock on the wrist, or grabbing a smartphone to hold it all together is not only a pain on the body but a pain in the wallet.

But LifeBEAM — a tech startup with roots in military technology — wants to pack all of its physiological monitoring equipment into a simple bicycle helmet. The SMART helmet uses the same principles as a figher pilot's Heads Up Display to track and display the wearers health stats in real time. And it's using crowdfunding to make it all happen.

What’s the Deal

LifeBEAM is an Israeli startup initially focused on bringing critical physiological monitoring equipment to the fast-paced, high-stress environment of the fighter jet. Using the helmet as the input source, LifeBEAM’s technology could track a pilot’s heart rate as well as their oxygen intake, CO2 output, blood flow and other data while in mid-flight. The system itself acted as a failsafe, alerting the pilot when dangerous situations were occuring (for example, pressure drops or oxygen shortage) and saving lives in the process.

Some of LifeBEAM’s engineers convinced the company that the technology could be well-utilized by average people in a fitness setting, particularly in cycling, and the SMART helmet was born.

Why It Matters

LifeBEAM’s SMART helmet tracks vital signs the same way their military-grade products do, acting as an accelerometer, heart rate monitor and data calculator all housed in the helmet. The SMART helmet effectively eliminates chest-strapped heart monitors or mid-ride phone-inputs. Instead, it can beam all that data in real time via bluetooth to a watch or via smartphone app for consistent data while on the go.

As for sustainability, the SMART helmet can survive up to 15 hours of continuous usage on a single charge and weighs less than a quarter of a pound, so it won’t put undue pressure on the head when in use.

The SMART helmet is going for $149 at the company’s IndieGoGo (the price will jump after preorders are filled). The system is expected to ship in September if it hits its funding goal. LifeBEAM is hoping for a $50,000 round to take the product to market.

Is It Legit?

A chafe-free system to monitor vitals is a great way to incorporate data without overwhelming a user, and cycling is the first, logical step for implementation with a helmet-mounted system. It’s especially promising when considering the symbiotic relationship a head-centric monitor could have with a bluetooth heads-up display, not unlike Google glass, in the near future. Of course, all of that expensive equipment inside a helmet could break hearts if it gets mangled in a wreck.

Given it's military track record, it's likely that LifeBEAM can deliver on the promise its helmet holds. The questions is whether, considering the spotty success record of crowdfunded projects, people will pay to find out.

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