Each year more than 300,000 people aged 65 and older in the U.S. break their hips, usually by falling. Dainese is a Colceresa, Italy-based high-end motorcycle apparel manufacturer. Their recently-introduced D-Air Smart Jacket incorporates technology that reduce the number of hip fractures globally. In 2017, we wrote about ActiveProtection’s airbag belt that uses 3D sensors to detect falls and deploys a 2-inch air cushion to protect the wearer from injury. ActiveProtection only sells the TangoBelt air-bag belt to senior care facilities.

The Dainese Smart Jacket is actually a vest, not a jacket. The vest is designed to be worn over or under many types of jackets, although the primary market is for motorcyclists. Dainese has more than 25 years of R&D in jackets and one-piece suits with integrated airbags, but previously the apparel was suitable for racing only. Two limitations in earlier D-Air jackets and suits make sense on race tracks but render them inappropriate for street riding. The airbags in other Dainese garments do not deploy below 30 miles per hour and they do not deploy on stationary impact. The Smart Jacket works at any speed and deploys on impact even when the vehicle or rider is not moving. Stationary rider impact protection doesn’t make sense if you don’t ride a motorcycle (or even a regular bicycle) on public roads, but many collisions involving motorcycles happen at intersections when a second vehicle crashes into a rider sitting on a bike that isn’t moving, or when a motorcyclist collides with a stationary vehicle.

The Smart Jacket vest contains accelerometers, gyroscopes, a GPS, plus a microprocessor with an algorithm that reads Dainese’s internal sensors 1,000 times a second. The vest runs on a lithium-ion battery that lasts up to 26 hours per charge and recharges via an integrated USB port. The garment’s outer shell is constructed of abrasion and weather-resistant fabric with through-flow ventilation. The part that inflates — called The Shield — has a microfilament structure for rapid, uniform protection when the algorithm signals a deployment. An integrated high-pressure gas canister inflates The Shield. After deployment, an owner can take the Smart Jacket to an authorized dealer for a replacement airbag.

The Dainese Smart Jacket will retail for $699 when released in July. If that seems expensive, the racing jackets and suits list for $1,200 to $4,500. We’re not suggesting that individuals buy a Smart Jacket to protect elderly hips from injury due to falls; in fact, the current technology doesn’t deploy when someone falls down. However, the Smart Jacket moves forward the technology that may someday protect many older people from breaking their hips.