There were several head impact monitor systems on display at CES 2015 this year, each with its own distinctive features and design philosophy. This was especially apparent in the case of the Linx Impact Assessment System (LinxIAS) from BlackBox Biometrics. Unlike other devices designed from the ground up to monitor head impacts for athletes, the LinxIAS grew out of the company’s Blast Gauge System that they developed for the military to detect head injuries in service members. The result is a plastic device just one-sixth of an inch thick, weighing no more than a nickel. It can be slipped into a headband or skullcap.
The device has a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis gyroscope. According to a company representative, it can detect both linear and rotational impacts. The device has a button you can press that will indicate the wearer’s status; green indicates an impact was registered, orange shows that it was “moderate,” and a red light shows it was “severe” on the company’s proprietary 100 point assessment scale. The device also sends its data via Bluetooth LE to an app on a smartphone or tablet up to 300 feet away. Up to 128 devices can be linked to one device, so a coach or trainer can monitor an entire team. The data also goes to a secure cloud server, where parents can receive alerts on their smartphones, and the data can be shared with healthcare professionals. The system also keeps a cumulative record of all head impacts for the individual.
The company intends to market the device directly to the consumer through their website and on Amazon. They also plan to license their technology to other brands. The product is not yet shipping, and the website does not indicate pricing or a ship date.
This product illustrates many of the challenges facing the products in this field. The companies go to great lengths to make it clear that this is simply a monitoring system, and does not diagnose possible injury. Yet they go ahead and provide an indication of whether the impact was okay (green light), moderate, or severe. The LinxIAS app even includes a concussion evaluation protocol that coaches and trainers can use to check on a player. Yet this is not a diagnostic. Also, parents can “look over the shoulder” of the coaches, seeing the same data as the coach sees. I won’t be at all surprised when this data shows up in a lawsuit over an athlete’s head injury. On the other hand, the company points out that little is known about the effects of repeated impacts, yet they appear to be “siloing” their data in a proprietary format that may not be able to be compared with data collected from other devices. It’s not at all clear what exactly their measures mean.
These devices on the whole raise as many questions as they answer. It is an interesting and important market segment that will bear close watching in the coming years.