NFC Enables Helmets to Store and Share Health Data

By Claire Swedberg

POC Sports' new cycle and ski helmets will include a built-in Near Field Communication tag and an app to create a record of important health information that users can access via their smartphones in the event of an accident or other health emergency.

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Sports apparel and safety gear company POC has developed a new line of helmets with built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality to share medical information with emergency responders about a helmet’s wearer. The system, consisting of an NFC tag built into the helmet, as well as an app that enables a user to create a medical profile written to that tag, will be released with two biking helmets and one ski helmet during the coming months.

The solution, known as the NFC Medical ID Chip, is intended to allow an individual’s helmet to speak for that person if he or she is unable to do so. The company hopes the system will help the sick or injured get the healthcare assistance they require quickly, by providing what could be relevant information that responders would need to know, such as their blood type and any medical conditions they might have.

Left to right: the Obex Backcountry SPIN, Tectal Race SPIN NFC and Ventral Air SPIN NFC helmets

The Tectal Race SPIN NFC and Ventral Air SPIN NFC bike helmets are slated for release in early 2020, while the Obex Backcountry SPIN ski helmet will be released in October of this year. Integration of the 13.56 MHz NFC chip (which is compliant with the ISO 14443 standard) and the app that manages the collected data is provided by Swedish technology firm My ICE Info AB (twICEme).

POC was launched in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2005 to provide safety helmets for alpine skiers, as well as for mountain and road biking. The company has focused on improving safety technology for bikers and skiers wearing its helmets. “Since day one,” says Oscar Huss, POC’s head of product, “POC has been committed to its mission to protect lives and reduce the consequences of accidents for athletes and anyone inspired to be one.”

The company’s goal, Huss explains, is to make safe helmets by using the latest materials and technologies, “even if that means doing something that has never been done before.” Therefore, it has included Recco reflectors and a multiple-directional impact protection system (MIPS), as well as incorporating aramid fiber into its products, explains Brendan Murphey, POC’s North American marketing manager. The latest drive, he notes, is the use of NFC—which may be a first for the cycle and ski helmet industry. The NFC tag, Huss says, “provides critical data to first-responders following an accident, essentially speaking for you when you may not be able to.”

Each helmet will have an NFC tag built into the layers of materials at the back of the helmet, with a logo displayed above it to indicate where the NFC tag can be found. When an individual purchases a new helmet, he or she downloads the POC app from twICEme onto an iOS version 11- or Android-based device.

Oscar Huss

The tag read prompts the phone to open the app, then the user proceeds to enter information including his or her name and blood type, as well as any medical conditions or allergies. That information is written directly to the tag and is not stored anywhere else. If the individual wishes to change that information, he or she can use the app to accomplish that by again tapping the phone near the tag and changing the relevant data.

Those who suffer an accident or a health emergency may not be able to speak for themselves. In such a scenario, a fellow rider or an emergency responder can access a victim’s data via the NFC tag without requiring an app to do so. Instead, the responder can simply tap a cell phone near the helmet’s tag (typically within about 20 millimeters [0.08 inch]) and thereby view the data within a few seconds. The system does not require an Internet or cellular connection, Huss says, since the data is being read directly off the tag. That information, he adds, can save a life.

Brendan Murphey

POC and My ICE have been working on product development with the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR), which represents mountain rescuers. The association educates its members about the system and how it works so that they can look for the NFC logo on helmets and utilize the technology to access health data.

In the meantime, Murphey reports, POC’s innovation department, known as POC Aid, is researching and developing ways in which technologies can be incorporated into helmets. That, he says, could mean other innovations in the future. POC’s helmets, including the new products, are sold worldwide.