Cyclists Test NFC Technology in Shoe to Help Emergency Responders

Published: November 20, 2023

DMT Cycling is providing an NFC feature in its special edition shoes with a tag from Avery Dennison leveraging an ICE Key chip to identify cyclists and their health needs.

Technologist Roberto Simonelli suffered a serious accident when competing in a motorcycle race more than a decade ago that left him unidentified for two days in the hospital. While he lay unconscious, his healthcare providers sought to find his identifying information and health records—something he hadn’t been carrying with him during the competition.

It was an issue that Simonelli focused on during his recovery and, taking advantage of his knowledge in NFC technology, would lead to the development of a technology-based solution so other motorcyclists or athletes don’t experience anything similar.

What Simonelli designed and produced is a device known as ICE-Key (an acronym for “In Case of Emergency”) that leverages Avery Dennison’s Textrace NFC tag. The ICE-Key links anyone with a smartphone to the critical health information and identity of someone who couldn’t speak for themselves in the event of an accident.

It’s the Shoes

DMT Cycling, a company specializing in ultra-light, breathable footwear designs worn by cyclists to boost performance, this summer built this ICE-Key technology into their DMT Pogi shoe.

Cyclists as well as other athletes—whether competing or training—look to carry as little excess weight as possible. That can mean that essential information like emergency contact as well as health information is left at home. DMT’s shoes offer a way to identify those individuals, however..

Slovenian cyclist Tadej Pogačar, who rides for the UAE Team Emirates, wore the shoes for the first time at the Tour de France in July. The cycling sportswear company is now weighing feedback from other users to determine if they will expand the technology to other products, says Carlo Guardamagna, DMT Cycling’s international sales manager.

Emergency Responders’ Solution with NFC

Simonelli’s accident happened at the Misano World Circuit in Italy in 2008, when he was riding his Yamaha motorbike.

“I did not have my personal document and not being able to communicate, I was left two days waiting for someone to come and recognize me and give my information to the doctor,” he says.

In fact, many athletes can’t carry personal documentation with them (including runners, swimmers or cyclists).  While there are wearable identification solutions, such as smartwatches or smartphones, Simonelli points out that they require a password which emergency responders would not have or could break during an accident.

ICE Evolution

The first product Simonelli developed was a bracelet with a USB flash drive mounted inside. However, in 2008, many emergency responders did not have a PC onboard their ambulance to access the data during that time. So in 2015, Simonelli created the ICE-Key, and an application for Android devices, followed by a version for the iOS based phones or tablets.

The ICE-Key Tag could store a unique ID linked to identification and health information such as name, emergency contacts or blood type in the app. ICE-Key worked with Avery Dennison to offer the technology in its Textrace tag, and Simonelli brought the product to DMT this year.

“It gives the cyclists the ability to always carry medical information in a simple way.  Without carrying other personal items,” Simonelli says.

DMT Design

The companies began preliminary discussions a few months ago, says Guardamagna, and considered which product might be the best choice to test the tag. The Pogi shoe is one of the company’s highest value products, priced at 400 euros (about $500 per pair).

“We decided to build the technology into our special edition model with a dedicated graphic,” said Guardamagna says.

Eventually, carrying of health and ID data by athletes may be mandatory, adding Guardamagna, “we decided to anticipate that, and started to apply the technology.”

Intelligence Built into Each Shoe

The shoe comes with a pocket so that the Textrace tag can be sealed into the outer-side of the left shoe.  A logo on top of that pocket alerts emergency responders that the technology is available.

Users would download the ICE-Key Tag mobile app and then enter the data they would like to link to the unique ID on their shoe’s tag. That can include their name, blood type and emergency contacts, but also could include a photo and other health information such as food or drug allergies, previous operations and vaccinations. They can also set their language – seven languages are available.

In the event of an emergency, those responders would simply take out their smartphone and tap it within one to four centimeters from the shoe. The tag can be read at a rate of 424 kilobits per second.

Eyeing 2024 Launch

Avery Dennison’s tag is waterproof, resistant to shock, dust and sunlight and has a fire retardant. It features a specialized antenna design along with DMT’s pocket-style embedding capabilities. The tag measures 20 by 12 millimeters. DMT shipped the first pairs in July, and has begun to collect data from distributors, and will evaluate the feedback.

“The pocket is the safest way to introduce the technology without interfering with transmission,” says Guardamagna. “There are many factors to consider, but the technology is extremely interesting.”

Product development is now underway for shoes that will be released in July 2024, some of which could include the technology. In the long term, the ICE-Key NFC technology could be leveraged not only for health emergencies but to control the management of athlete identification during cycle events.

“My goal is to continue collaboration with DMT for other products and modify the application by introducing new features,” added Simonelli.

Key Takeaways:

  • Avery Dennison’s Textrace NFC tag, with ICE Key’s IC is providing health and identification information in DMT cycling shoes to assist emergency responders in the event of an accident or health problem.
  • The shoe’s technology gained some high profile exposure when *8 wore it during the Tour de France.