Water Safety Innovations: Digital Technology

Have you read about computer-aided drowning detention systems?

While expensive today, just like HDTVs, iPads and hybrid cars, this innovative technology will come down in price and will likely be the standard in about 10 years, according to experts at The Redwoods Group (a Mooresville, NC-based insurance provider to more than half of the YMCAs in the US.

How does it work?

Cameras installed overhead and underwater differentiate between normal and suspicious movement, lock in on the source of that movement and sound an alarm within 10-12 seconds. A monitor at poolside shows the location where the alarm was generated. Swimmers doing laps, for examples, wouldn’t trigger an alarm but one that begins to sink to the bottom would.

This is cool. It’s innovative. It’s forward-thinking. But right now, it’s expensive.

Upwards of $100K for one pool monitoring system. That is its biggest obstacle (where for-profit, bottom-line-oriented businesses are concerned).

What’s interesting in that – despite its expense – non-profits are the first to start actually implementing these systems. This is because, instead of having to rely purely on budget dollars, non-profits often have donor dollars that are ear-marked for such innovations – especially when those innovations have the potential for increasing safety standards (and potentially reducing insurance premiums.)

This doesn’t replace human lifeguards but helps them.

According to a recently article in Aquatics International, the digital eyes can better detect danger under difficult conditions (glare and chop). The technology is considered a “backup to the human element.”

And the response to the cost? “Our philosophy is, if it saves one life it’s definitely worth the investment,” Julie Colon Koriakin, director of strategic initiatives for the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta says.

Julie’s “Y” was the first US adopter of this technology which was actually developed almost 20 years ago by Poseidon (European manufacturer that is now owned by pool-equipment producer Maytronics)/ More than 230 pools worldwide have the early-warning system. Of its 50+ US instances, most are at YMCAs. Julie’s “Y” has 18 of these.

Huge money requirement is a hindrance.

While there is a valid argument that you can’t put a cost on safety, even Koriakin can’t yet credit the system for saving any lives. Poseidon claims 28 successful rescues. With such young and limited stats, companies can’t “justify” what is now an indulgence when (with multiple pools) they are looking at absolutely “huge money” to do it.

Of course, you can stage out multiple installations, but from a risk management perspective, The Redwoods Group, notes that you can’t just have it in one of several pools.

There are groups that believe this is just TMI!

Too much information being recorded of people in their bathing suits. This is mostly taking place in Europe where some criticize the technology for being needlessly obtrusive. In some instances it has caused friction between local authorities and civil rights groups. Some big brother groups believe that this type technology shouldn’t be put out there without their being a consultation period with the public.

Would this attitude change if someone close to these complainants were saved by this technology?

While there is a monitor for viewing the location of the alert, there isn’t a bank of “surveillance” monitors with a crew of people who constantly stare at the screens. In fact, the footage is only accessed from a server when an accident needs to be reviewed.

The Julie notes that “When we have educated our members on the syst, and why we have it, they are very pleased to know that they have an extra set of digital eyes, so to speak, keeping them safe.”

Maybe Americans are just more nonchalant about being monitored. There has been little (if any) noted controversy in the US thus far.

There are some more affordable – but still unproven – alternatives.

Wearables for drowning detection are available but they are still in experimental phases. These would be individually worn, of course. In the use scenario, a child would wear the monitor which would alert the parent (instead of lifeguards) on their smart phones. After all, lifeguards aren’t going to have their cell phones on them while performing their duties. The parent would probably be the first to know if their child is in distress.

But there are all sorts of ramifications and concerns about this. It could open up liability risks or it could be a way to have multiple people keeping tabs on children in the water. That is yet to be worked out.

Read the complete article in April 2015th’s edition of Aquatics International.

Source: Aquatics International Magazine

Mobile App Gives Barron Gymnastics Competitive Advantage and the Stats to Prove It

Scott Barron of Barron Gymnastics expresses his delight with Mobile Inventor app.

Simplicity of mobile app gives parents the features they need and convenience they demand.

Guiding the Process

The results that Barron Gymnastics has seen from its mobile app reflect the careful thought and planning set in motion in the initial meetings that Scott had with the Mobile Inventor team.  Mobile Inventor helped Scott to work his goals for the app into the most simple and user friendly design. Mobile Inventor’s guidance helps to ensure that apps meet customer expectations and operate efficiently and effectively.


Barron Gymnastics’ mobile app has:Barron_app1

  • Elevated the convenience level of doing business with their gym.
  • Supported their place as a leader in innovation.
  • Increased parental delight.
  • Placed their branding on customers’ mobile devices.
  • Proved its value.

Delivering Elevated Services

Barron Gymnastics developed their mobile app with their customers’ experience in mind. The Mobile Inventor team – that is well-acquainted with Jackrabbit – designed a simplified and very user-accommodating process for registration and account management that is conveniently downloaded and used on smartphones.

“We’ve basically put customer portal functionality on their phones – right next to their Facebook and banking apps. We’ve elevated our services for parents and given them conveniences in doing business with us that other children’s facilities aren’t providing.” 

Raising the Bar on Innovation

Establishing of competitive advantage for any business involves two things today: technology and convenience. Today’s parents prefer using their smartphones to maneuver their daily activities so gyms are wise to invest in having a presence there. Mobile Inventor has experience in providing app features that operate and are presented in ways that make them appealing for use. Their additional expertise in integrating Jackrabbit’s features into their apps makes them the perfect partner for gyms and other children’s activity centers.Blog_MobileInventor_Barrons

“We’ve definitely been able to set ourselves above our competitors with our mobile app. It has helped us to enhance our customer service and make our company more diverse. This is definitely technology that others with parent-centric operations should invest in to make their parents happier.”

Seeing is Believing

Mobile Inventor’s apps give you return on investment and you have the statistics to prove it. By using the administrative dashboard statistics to track registrations to their source, you can get a clear indication of how many are generated from your app

“We know that our investment in our mobile app pays off. We track our statistics closely so that we know how to tweak our spending decisions to get the best results. Our average of 100 registration per month from approximately 1000 monthly visitors, lets us know that we’ve done something right for our customers. Mobile Inventor has helped us to make a difference in the gym’s reputation and in the bottom line.”

We Love Innovators! (like John & Lory Kirk)

Innovators represent what Jackrabbit strives to be for its customers

Jackrabbit customers, John and Lory Kirk of Little Otter Swim School, are truly pushing the innovation envelope with their amazing new school that opened in Huntersville, NC – VERY close to our corporate headquarters.

The second Little Otter location, the Huntersville school has one up on the Kirk’s original swim school in another suburb of Charlotte – Matthews – from the very beginning. After all, the Kirks began offering lessons from their first location that was launched in an existing location that they moved into and could simply upgrade to meet their needs.

They’ve been providing swim lessons from the Matthews location for 10 years. And during that 10 years, they’ve been collecting ideas and information for the time when they could purchase land, design and build their own facility – with all of the attributes that they believe create the best environment for providing a safe place to teach children to swim.

John and Lory spent time looking at how their business works, what families and students need, what industry peers are doing, as well as building and technology innovations.

With their top priorities of keeping kids safe and having good lessons at the forefront, John and Lory opened the Huntersville location of Little Otter in April of 2014.

The school has everything you’d expect:

A great pool, filtration, changing areas and showers, an observation room, meeting rooms for parent meetings or staff meeting and plenty of office space for staff.

But John and Lory have gone beyond the expected to set themselves apart from other swim lesson providers and quickly enroll more than 850 students – just at the new Huntersville swim school.

But then unexpected features catch your eye:LittleOtterBlock1

  • The garage doors installed to allow the school to use the Carolinas’ beautiful weather to their advantage and ventilate with fresh air very easily. This helps to ventilate – and gives the dehumidifiers a break – and saves on energy use.
  • The massive pool that uses walkways and dividers to section off pool areas for lessons. The walkways also allows instructors and managers to position themselves in the very center of the pool so that they have the best possible vantage point on what their students are doing. (The Kirks are the first folks to build this kind of pool.)
  • The dividers also provide the smallest students with cozier learning space because sometimes the bigness of the entire pool is overwhelming (and distracting) for them.
  • The visible filtration system that reminds you of a microbrewery allows Little Otter to be totally transparent with one of the most critical areas of their operations. Little Otter’s filtration is far above industry standard required to keep swimmers safe – and parents can watch it work anytime they’d like.  Along with the filtration, Little Otter also operates a dehumidification system that keeps Little Otters’ students from feeling clammy and sticky as can happen in schools where good dehumidifiers are not installed.
  • The thermal blanket that keeps the pool temperature constant – even during the winter. Little Otter doesn’t want any students to get too chilled to happily and healthily learn to swim.
  • The mosaic shelf that provides seating for children waiting for their turns runs the entire perimeter of the pool. Children no longer wait in awkward lines and never have to re-acclimate to the water during their lessons.
  • The pre-swim shower area is directly on deck but surrounded by clear plexiglass so that instructors (and parents) can always have their students within sight – even if they are in the middle of the pool observing student from the walkway.
  • Of course, the changing rooms are separated – and not just with plexiglass – for privacy but have modern accoutrements like hair dryers and swim suit spinners.
  • The parent’s observation area is complete with Internet access and work space and there is plenty of space in the changing area with shelves, tables, and benches that fit the needs of all ages of students.
  • Even the staff display presented on the walls of the observation area is modern. The rails that hold the hanging staff pictures follow the whimsically curved walls.

Subtle nuances and standout features are the norm around this place. For example, Little Otter students have a photo booth area where their milestones and accomplishments can be recorded so that no special day is ever forgotten.

LittleOtterBlock2A flat screen display is one of the coolest features – for both parents and Little Otter staff. It dynamically displays upcoming classes complete with class codes so parents can quickly and easily recognize special information about their child’s class that day. This display is driven by Jackrabbit and saves staff more than 3 hours a week plus reams of paper that the paper-based alternative requires. It also just looks much neater. It’s more professional and much easier for all parents to see as soon as they come in the door. And it is “greener” – which also fits into the way the Huntersville swim school operates. In fact, Jackrabbit also helps John and Lory to innovate – as is obvious from the above-referenced display. John came up with the idea and then wasted no time in worked with his favorite web developer to create an API to allow Jackrabbit to talk to the flat screen in the right way.

This isn’t the only time the Kirks have added an innovative layer on top of their Jackrabbit system. To includes the subtle nuances of pre-requisites in class selection in the online registration system available in Jackrabbit, John worked with his developer to write customizations into Jackrabbit! We love this! We believe it is nothing short of amazing when customers are inspired to push our solution beyond what it was built to do.

John and Lory have poured their hearts and souls into their new school. Every detail is well-thought out and perfectly appointed. Just consider the thought that was put into choosing the beautifully colored schools of fish that hang above the pool. Well, you can’t really say hang. It looks more like the schools are swimming in the air. The designs are carried over into the pool floor where you can look down and see brightly colored fish as well.  This isn’t just for show, of course. These eye-catching fish help to entertain and distract young students who may have a little apprehension about their new surroundings and new experience in the pool. The fish can be reference points to help instructors continue to engage with their child as they get more comfortable and gain more confidence with the water.

The School is so amazing that it almost challenges you to look around to see if there is possibly anything that John and Lory missed.  I don’t think so. On my first tour, at every turn, I found myself saying “Oh, wow! I never thought of that….”

Going Green: The Green Difference

According to a U.S. Small Business Administration report from 2012, there are nearly 30 million small businesses in the country. These small businesses created 64% of the country’s new jobs over the last 15 years. They drive innovation, global competitiveness and economic recovery. These small businesses lead large businesses and even sector giants in many things – but they lag in sustainability. Sloan Management Review produced some pretty impressive figures in a green business survey that said 60% of its survey companies were increasing their investment in sustainability – yes – 60% are going (or going more) green. However, only 9% 0f these companies (with less than 1000 employees) could be considered as “embracers” of green business practices.
Whether the reason for this disparity is a lack of resources, time or awareness of its benefits, small businesses can benefit from setting a green strategy. It can save companies money and conserve resources, it can enhance corporate branding statements and boost public perception of the company as a good citizen of the community.

The best thing about “going green” is that you can do a little or a lot. Many green practices are common sense efficiency decisions (such as evaluating your energy use) and merely require changes to processes (such as putting internal recycling policies in place). Some practices require more planning and commitment than budgeting (such as using more electronic processes and files than printed ones) while others require research and investment (such as installing solar panels). But choices are what make going green accommodating to small businesses! Starting can be as easy as deciding what you would like for your business to stand for in terms of sustainability. It is important to include your team in this decision because they may have ideas and commitment to sustainability that surprises you.

Because it helps your business to be more efficient and use less paper, simply using Jackrabbit can be a big part of your “greening” process. Of course, there are many more things that you can do in addition to using efficiency-focused software. Check out some of the sites mentioned below to examine ideas, see examples and learn how to start green initiatives.

Resources abound for learning more about greening your business from government and private agencies and business publications. (i.e., The National Federation of Independent Businesses – NFIB; the U.S. Small Business Administration; Small Business Trends Magazine)

Examples of green initiatives, ways to find the right green initiative for your company and a green business guide are just three of the website resources to help you figure out how you can go green.

There are also levels of certification that you can attain by meeting specifications set forth by governing organizations. See what it takes to become Green Certified or to attain LEED Certification.

Jackrabbit CoFounder Shares Success Secrets with Entrepreneur Group

Mark Mahoney Achieves Growth for Jackrabbit Technologies by Applying Discipline to Business Strategies 
CHARLOTTE, NC– September 1, 2009 – Mark Mahoney, President and CoFounder of Jackrabbit Technologies, will share insights with fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders Thursday, September 3rd at the Business Innovation & Growth (BIG) Pathfinder Event. Mark will help participants in the morning-long event understand the importance of discipline in propelling business growth. Mark and his partner, Mike Carper, have enjoyed the fruits of their disciplined approach to business as Jackrabbit Technologies has experienced exponential growth since its inception almost five years ago.Jackrabbit Technologies provides web-based operations management solutions to class-based businesses such as dance, gymnastics and music studios, cheer, swim and martial arts facilities as well as day cares and camps.

Thursday’s BIG Pathfinder Event is a member-only event that will take place at Technekes’ office at 601 S. Cedar Street, Suite 201, Charlotte, NC 28202. A networking breakfast will begin at8:30 a.m. with the Program, featuring Mr. Mahoney, kicking off at9 a.m. Mr. Mahoney will discuss the importance of discipline in successful execution strategies for early stage companies. He will share the significance of making sure that your business plan is a living document and identify the finer points of using your business plan to manage your business and propel business growth.

Mark Mahoney’s passion is solving business problems with technology. He has been involved in organized youth sports since 1973 and has instructed, coached and owned sports facilities. Mark developed Class Master, a class management system, in the 80’s and sold it to another company. Due to the large number of old clients asking Mark to develop another system, he decided to build a web-based application to eliminate the need for owners to worry about database backups, software updates and technical issues.

Mark brings 22 years of experience in information technology and has sold over 20 million dollars in software and services. Mark holds aBBAfrom theUniversityofGeorgiaand serves on the MIS Advisory Board for the Terry College of Business at the University. He also serves on several committees within the Information Technology Council for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

The Business Innovation & Growth (BIG) Council is a non-profit membership based organization. BIG’s mission is to lead development of “high-impact, high-growth entrepreneurs” and proactively grow their businesses by providing education, resources, leadership, and visibility. BIG launched in 2006 with 13 Founding Trailblazers who were committed to creating an organization run by and run for entrepreneurs to further their growth potential and to create economic value for the region.

“I’m looking forward to this opportunity to share my business experiences with others who have supported me in my entrepreneurial efforts. It is exciting for me to think that anything that I’ve experienced could help someone else build a successful business or improve the one they’re growing. BIG’s Pathfinder events provide entrepreneurs with a dynamic platform to share,knowledge, brainstorm and sometime commensurate,” commentsMark Mahoney, Jackrabbit Technologies president and co-founder. “We’re fortunate to have this organization as a resource.”