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The Swimmers’ Wearable

Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Design, Digital-Physical Design, Product Brand Language, Engineering Analysis & Optimization

Swimmers have different needs than runners and cyclists.

The founders of Phlex envisioned a fitness tracker for swimmers, by swimmers.

Phlex EDGE is the first goggle-worn fitness tracker, and the first wearable that doesn’t cause drag in the water. It uses haptic feedback to indicate swimmer-specific data.

Before EDGE,  waterproof wearables were limited to watches and chest-worn devices whose bulkiness causes drag in a sport where even a hangnail can slow you down.

As Phlex’s CMO put it, “You wouldn’t run a marathon in sandals, so why would you train for swimming with a watch on?”

Easily Worn, Easily Deployed

Phlex’s founders, former competitive college and Olympic swimmers, recognized other unmet needs, too. Existing waterproof fitness trackers weren’t accurate enough for competitive swimmers, and the data collected was too general.

Swimmers need sport-specific analytics. The Florida-based startup set out to fill this void in the market.

The Phlex team developed the machine-learning technology that uses biometric and inertial sensors to track over 30 swimming metrics before coming to Bresslergroup.

They needed a partner to help package the tech in a seamlessly designed and intuitive device that’s easily worn and deployed by recreational to professional swimmers.

Proving the Concept

Because the EDGE is positioned on a goggle strap on one side of the swimmer’s head, the project team decided on haptic feedback to indicate different heart rate zones. Once the buzzer motor for haptic feedback was chosen and packaged in a proof of concept, team members tested it in a pool to determine what length vibration could best be felt and heard. It was important to make sure the feedback was easily noticeable and that one type of feedback could be differentiated from the next.

In the final product, the more intense the workout gets, the more intense the buzz: one buzz for the fat-burning zone, two for aerobic endurance, three for anaerobic endurance, and four for VO2 max.

Motion Built into Its Form

EDGE’s form was driven by functionality, including the interior stackup of components and the necessity to be able to string it onto any size goggle strap. It was designed to sit at the temple to enable it to track heartbeat constantly. The team did ergonomic studies around the device size and temple location, testing different 3D-printed versions with a variety of representative participants.

The wearable’s aesthetic  is minimal and clean, and the device has motion built into its form. Phlex’s founders wanted an angular, as opposed to a soft, shape to communicate the action of slicing through the water. The shape is hydrodynamic — the top of the device is shaped like an arch so water can easily flow over and past it. Its simple interface has only two buttons — one to start and stop  data collection, and the other to turn on and off the heart-rate feedback.

The shape is hydrodynamic — the top of the device is shaped like an arch so water can easily flow over and past it.

Overall Bresslergroup’s industrial designers strove to keep the device low-profile and lightweight. With the minimal amount of thickness allowed by its components, EDGE feels and acts streamlined and does not interfere with goggle usage. Its casework is ultrasonically welded and glued to keep the device waterproof and sealed against pool environments (chemicals and saltwater, high heat, high humidity).

Phlex surpassed its campaign goal for EDGE on Indiegogo, and the device has enjoyed positive press from major swimming outlets (and even from the Wall Street Journal). Maybe most impressive, it’s won endorsements from the most demanding users — Olympians and world record holders. And the EDGE received its first design honor soon after it launched, with a Finalist nod from IDSA’s 2019 International Design Excellence Awards.

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