Safety first: a Raspberry Pi safety helmet

Jennifer Fox is back, this time with a Raspberry Pi Zero–controlled impact force monitor that will notify you if your collision is a worth a trip to the doctor.


We’ve all knocked our heads at least once in our lives, maybe due to tripping over a loose paving slab, or to falling off a bike, or to walking into the corner of the overhead cupboard door for the third time this week — will I ever learn?! More often than not, even when we’re seeing stars, we brush off the accident and continue with our day, oblivious to the long-term damage we may be doing.

Force of impact

After some thorough research, Jennifer Fox, founder of FoxBot Industries, concluded that forces of 4 to 6 G sustained for more than a few seconds are dangerous to the human body. With this in mind, she decided to use a Raspberry Pi Zero W and an accelerometer to create helmet with an impact force monitor that notifies its wearer if this level of G-force has been met.

Jennifer Fox Raspberry Pi Impact Force Monitor

Obviously, if you do have a serious fall, you should always seek medical advice. This project is an example of how affordable technology can be used to create medical and citizen science builds, and not a replacement for professional medical services.

Setting up the impact monitor

Jennifer’s monitor requires only a few pieces of tech: a Zero W, an accelerometer and breakout board, a rechargeable USB battery, and an LED, plus the standard wires and resistors for these components.

After installing Raspbian, Jennifer enabled SSH and I2C on the Zero W to make it run headlessly, and then accessed it from a laptop. This allows her to control the Pi without physically connecting to it, and it makes for a wireless finished project.

Jen wired the Pi to the accelerometer breakout board and LED as shown in the schematic below.

Jennifer Fox Raspberry Pi Impact Force Monitor

The LED acts as a signal of significant impacts, turning on when the G-force threshold is reached, and not turning off again until the program is reset.

Jennifer Fox Raspberry Pi Impact Force Monitor

Make your own and more

Jennifer’s full code for the impact monitor is on GitHub, and she’s put together a complete tutorial on SparkFun’s website.

For more tutorials from Jennifer Fox, such as her ‘Bark Back’ IoT Pet Monitor, be sure to follow her on YouTube. And for similar projects, check out Matt’s smart bike light and Amelia Day’s physical therapy soccer ball.


Profesor José Luis García avatar

Very clear, I LOVE your work. We’ll take some ideas from your project and incorporate to our HEIMDALL Project.

We are developing an smart helmet for múltiple purpouses: fireman, rescue, …

Congratulations, best wishes.

Zander avatar

This looks a fun project but it’s worth pointing out that removing a section of the helmet (as suggested in the linked instructions) can seriously damage its integrity and will make it less effective at protecting from an impact, not to mention the chance of a lithium battery being crushed between the road and someone’s head

Not trying to ruin anyone’s fun here but the potential safety implications should be noted

Alex Bate avatar

Jennifer does state that this is more a proof on concept that an actual ‘make this and use it’ safety measure, don’t worry.

Tom avatar

Nice but is the pi connected with Wifi? Is it a good idea to put it so close to your head?

Alex Bate avatar

There shouldn’t’ be any reason for the Pi to be connected to the internet. You could do this with a Zero, you’d just have to physically connect to it to restart the program.

AndrewS avatar

Or you could use e.g. so that the program starts automatically at every bootup?

Dougie Lawson avatar

There is no plausible evidence that any mobile phone or other device with a GSM radio, bluetooth radio and WiFi radio has ANY possible effect on your brain.

Simon Long avatar

Most smartphones are connected with Wifi, and people seem to have no issues putting those pretty close to their heads…

Dougie Lawson avatar

How is Jennifer going to test that the software works and the results from her accelerometer gives any useful data?

Is she going to pay folks to fall off their bikes? I’ve done that a few times (got the scars from stitches in my head and left leg to prove it) and would be willing to be a live crash test dummy for a suitably large bounty (£100,000 or more).

hans lepoeter avatar

Obviously I usefull project.

Roy avatar

The G force on the helmet, sensor and your head may not be the same especially when the impact is not in same area of the helmet as the sensor. The LED may be helpful but I would not use the LED as the only guide that the impact caused no harm.

Matt Hawkins avatar

If 3 sensors were positioned on the helmet would it be possible to “triangulate” the impact point? That might give a better idea of which zone experienced the impact and what the relative magnitude was?

Lots of interesting directions this project could be taken in.

AndrewS avatar

I guess that’d probably depend on the rigidity of the helmet, whether the helmet deforms equally in any direction, and the sensitivity of the sensors?

ameyring avatar

Football programs in high schools and pee-wee programs are probably going to be monitoring their players more and because they’re often very budget-strapped, an inexpensive solution like Jen’s could be useful.

Comments are closed