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Ann Arbor YMCA Adds Artificial Intelligence to Aquatics Area

Ann Arbor YMCA

To provide swimmers the safest environment possible, the Ann Arbor YMCA recently installed an artificial intelligence system to monitor the Y’s Aquatics Center. James Highsmith, the vice president of membership and marketing at the Ann Arbor YMCA, said the move makes the Y the first in the country to use AI technology in such a manner.

“According to the CDC, more children ages 1 to 4 die from drowning than any other cause of death,” said Highsmith. “There are an estimated 4,000 fatal unintentional drownings per year in the U.S. With those statistics in mind, and as a youth-serving organization, the Y is consistently proactive in attempts to improve its aquatics safety standards. This technology is just one of the proactive steps taken by our organization to improve upon the aquatics experience at the Y.”

The system is developed by Lynxight, a software company based in Israel, and was first setup in December 2022 with Y teams conducting a soft launch of the technology. Afterwards, the AI officially went live and began as a responsibility of the aquatics staff on February 1, 2023.

“We conducted multiple trainings and in-services, had a visit with our insurance company, and had staff from Lynxight onsite to help with the onboarding process,” said Highsmith. “Our goal was to work out as many small kinks and technological issues as possible before a full launch of the software. Additionally, the software is constantly learning and adapting to the environment of our Aquatics Center. This soft launch allowed the system to get acclimated to the details of our unique natatorium.”

How the AI Works

Highsmith said the technology utilizes the Y’s CCTV cameras to analyze and detect swimmers in the pools. It can determine swimmers in distress, as well as identify high-risk areas in the pool due to overcrowding.

Lifeguards are alerted quickly and discreetly through a smartwatch that pinpoints the exact location of the incident with multiple real-time images. In addition, Highsmith stressed the system is not replacing lifeguards in any capacity. Instead, the use of AI is meant to make their jobs easier.

“It’s a 21st-century tool being added to an age-old position,” said Highsmith. “Our certified lifeguards go through additional training every month to keep their skills sharp. The AI is essentially an eye in the sky that helps lifeguards in their scanning and rescue response times. It aims to decrease the time it takes to respond to emergencies by taking any ambiguity out of a potential distress scenario.”

Highsmith said working to create a positive partnership with the vendor helped in training members how to use the new, advanced technology. “The collaboration is still ongoing,” he said. “There are several updates to the software coming in the next few months that will only help increase the safety of our aquatics department.”

Other Information

Highsmith said the Y has a commitment to continue to work toward making water activities as safe as possible. He said this opportunity with AI was funded by a grant. With aquatics safety always being of the utmost priority to their organization, it was an attractive opportunity to add a cutting-edge piece of technology to increase safety.

The technology also provides the Y the ability to make more data-informed decisions related to lifeguard positioning and lap-lane availability.

Moreover, a release from the Y said the system aggregates data on where incidents have occurred in the Aquatics Center, what type of incident occurred and which areas of the pool are most often being used by members. Also, all data is 100% anonymous and encrypted. Therefore, no personal data is ever collected by the Ann Arbor YMCA or the software provider.


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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