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Coast Guard ­Challenge

Innovation to make all safer, a few richer

      This year’s accumulating stories of deaths and serious boating accidents on the Bay and our rivers have gotten to me. I no longer leave the dock without donning my inflatable PFD. It was expensive, but it’s comfortable, and I feel safer.

       There’s still the issue of getting out of the water, particularly if I don’t have time to send a distress call. If I am overdue, I can count on my wife notifying the authorities. But it could take a while to be found. This problem could be solved if I invest $300 or so for a personal locator beacon. That’s a lot of money for an unlikely occurrence.

      If I’m out with a boatload of guests, it would be impolite to put on my inflatable and ask them to use the big, bulky old style vests I carry for legal compliance. Must I carry five or six inflatable vests at $150 each and an equal number of locator beacons?

      The sticking point is money. I do the math and wait another year.

      “Adoption of current technologies — a lifejacket with reflective materials and a personal locator beacon attached — is not prevalent, due to factors such as cost, comfort, style and awareness,” the U.S. Coast Guard agrees.

      To spur life-saving technology and innovations, the Coast Guard is using an increasingly common method to get new ideas, a nationwide contest, backed by big money, a quarter of a million dollars.

     To encourage more creativity, contest objectives are broad. The goal is simply “a solution that helps make a person in the water easier to find. The best solution will be effective, affordable and hold the potential for wide adoption by recreational boaters.”

     Got ideas?

      Phase I of the contest requires only a concept. The five best innovators will each get $5,000 and move up to Phase II. In Phase II, you develop a prototype, and compete for a prize pool of $120,000. Phase III gets your prototype field-tested and another chance at the six-figure prize money.

      Phase I concepts are due October 15: www.readyforrescuechallenge.com.