Jolt concussion sensor

Does the world need another concussion tracker? The founders of a new company, Jolt Sensor, seems to think that there is still room in this increasingly crowded field. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign this month, and has already raised almost 25% of their modest $60,000 goal.

The device seems simple enough, based on the Kickstarter site description. It will be a small, silicone rubber encased clip that contains the sensor, a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmitter, and a rechargeable battery. The description says that it is designed “to stand up to dirt, dust, sweat, and rain.” The device also relies on a micro USB port to recharge the device, so it’s not clear how that connector will hold up under game time conditions for some outdoor sports. When the sensor detects an acceleration above some (unspecified) limit, it will notify the wearer by vibrating. Since the player’s head may well be ringing on its own at that point, it’s a good thing that the device will also use the BLE connection to notify a coach or parent on the sidelines. The player can then be pulled out of the game (or practice) to be evaluated. Jolt intends to include a smartphone app that can be used to establish a baseline performance for the athlete, and then evaluate their performance against the baseline score after receiving a blow to the head.

It’s not clear from the description what is being measured. The photographs on the Kickstarter site imply that the location of the device is not critical; this probably means that it can sense accelerating forces in all three axes. The site does not mention any measurement of rotational forces, however, which is a differentiating feature among other head impact trackers. And the site does not mention whether or not the company intends to get the device certified, although as reported here and elsewhere, this is a controversial issue in itself.

The Kickstarter page takes great pains to point out that only a medical professional can adequately diagnose a possible concussion, and that the device simply indicates whether or not such attention is warranted. The problem with this is that more information is needed in order to understand whether the reporting threshold is too low — resulting in false alarms that could lead to the warnings being ignored — or too high, in which case potentially harmful events might be missed. More information will be needed before the coaches and parents of young athletes can make a decision about using the Jolt Sensor.