The SmartHat: Where Is Our Most Obvious Wearable Tech?

My clumsy looking helmet cam (albeit technically brilliant)
My clumsy looking helmet cam (albeit technically brilliant)
British Eventing’s statement yesterday banning the use of helmet cams until further safety research is undertaken has whipped up a social media storm. Irrespective of the reasons behind this (and there are suggestions it’s might be related to an investigation currently in progress in the Michael Shumacher case), I’m not at all surprised by their decision.
Paul Tapner wears a small discreet ‘bullet’ style helmet cam.
These helmet cams come in all shapes and sizes, with all manner of fixings, some like my own are huge monstrosities that stick out precariously so it’s no wonder there are some concerns, no matter how they are fixed to the helmet. Riding hats are also completely different to say a motor cross helmet.
All of this got me thinking. With the popularity of hat cams and the technology wave of wearable tech why aren’t riding hat manufacturers responding to the opportunity?
Here’s one similar project I found, which whilst basic is functional:
Go-Pro

I’m currently working on other tech projects in a similar field, and when you look at all the useful functions you could build into a smart hat it makes you wonder why hat makers are dragging their feet. There’s also the fashion/ aesthetics of the current hat cams – almost without exception, they are unsightly, so all the progress hat manufacturers are making in fashion is being sacrificed by hideous hat cams strapped to beautiful hats.The Go-Pro is probably the most popular ‘sport action’ camera, but also one of the ugliest for use by riders.

Micronised hardware technology is sufficiently economical that you could actually pack a fair bit into a hat, with numerous uses. The other thing worth mentioning here is that the component parts needed can be easily distributed around the hat when incorporated into the hat itself, plus these could easily be component parts available after market provided the wiring ribbon and a couple of other key parts were added to a standard shell.
Here’s my ideal hat:

Front camera:

 For all the obvious reasons really, e.g. for recording your rides.

Back camera:

 For as many reasons as having the front camera, but also I remember reading in Horse & Hound how helmet cameras were being used in cases involving nuisance motorists.

GPS:

 Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology is very useful, and already we are seeing this used in all manner of apps for equestrians, from the CourseWalk & Cross Country Apps, to those used to trace you in case you’ve fallen off on a hack. Personally I’d also use this alongside a few of the other sensors to track exercise.

Pressure band:

You can think of this as a smart elastic band that measures micro changes in the circumference of your head , which would prove invaluable for safety reasons.

Temperature gauge:

Wearing a riding hat obviously makes you sweat, and our face, head and chest are most sensitive to changes in temperature, so it would seem sensible to monitor head temperature whilst enduring physical exercise in a riding hat.

Pressure Sensors:

30 or so pressure sensors sat under the outer shell of a riding hat could monitor and record impacts of varying degrees and types giving you warnings to replace your helmet, and vital information (particularly in conjunction with a 3 axis gyroscope) about the nature of a fall. These types of pressure sensors are already widely used within the sports industry within shoes and socks for measuring pressure, impact, and footfall patterns of athletes.

3 axis Gyro:

This has numerous uses as it monitors 3 dimensional movement to a macro level. So for example it could be used to provide a training aid for riding ‘eyes forward, not down’, and as our head is fundamental to balance and posture can analysis a variety of data.

Connectivity:

Bluetooth is the most obvious choice as it’s low energy and the hat would not require connectivity for most situations.

Power:

I wouldn’t bother trying to incorporate any proprietary  rechargeable battery. They’re expensive and a nuisance to charge. Instead I’d use 1 or 2 AAA batteries or a standard 3v battery either of which can easily be sat at the base of the shell .

Apps:

With all of these sensors and the data that can be collected from them we can start to build some truly useful apps and considering that everyone needs a hat when riding, come rain, shine or snow, the riding hat is the most obvious item within which to incorporate this technology. Hat manufacturers could also consolidate numerous apps that already exist or even provide an ecosystem for other to develop apps based around their hardware.
All of these components including the circuit board needed are currently mass produced in their 100’s of millions, and therefore producing a ‘SmartHat’ would not substantially increase hat costs even with any re-tooling needed.
With a smart hat the possibilities are endless! Perhaps I should go into the Riding Hat business……
Next: Smart Saddles, plus a way to get rid of those ugly number bibs!
Dominic
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Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.

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