Interview: Lisa Irlam, Inventor of the Swimovate swim computer

A keen swimmer and triathlete, Lisa spotted a gap in the market with a watch that can automatically count your laps

A keen swimmer and triathlete, Lisa spotted a gap in the market with a watch that can automatically count your laps

Swimovate’s Pool-Mate is a fabulous new gadget for swimmers. It may look like a watch but it is actually a fully automatic swimming computer which works out your speed, distance swum and calories burnt while you swim.

It also tells swimmers how efficient they are so that they can adapt their stroke or swimming style accordingly. And unlike any other swim product on the market it counts the number of laps completed without having to stop and press a button at the end of each lap.

Pool-Mate was the brainchild of keen triathlete, Lisa Irlam, who, along with her husband, set up Swimovate in November 2007.

She quit her job to invest her time and efforts into developing and manufacturing the Pool-Mate. It was a risk which has paid off as the Pool-Mate has become a huge success since it was launched in September 2009.

Goggleblog caught up with Lisa Irlam, inventor of the Pool-Mate, to ask her how it all came about.

How did you get the idea for the Pool-Mate?

Both my husband and I are triathletes and wanted something to help with our swimming. But when we looked for a device which would keep track of our performance there was nothing. We spotted there was a huge gap in the market for a product which could automatically count laps and measure performance so we decided to have a go at making one ourselves.

So, aside from swimming, what is your background? You must have been confident that you could actually make something which worked.

We had both worked in the electronics industry for twenty years. We made digital radios and other consumer electronics so we had the technical experience. We had also worked with manufacturers in the Far East.

That must have been invaluable when you decided to go it alone and manufacture pool mate yourselves?

Yes it was. We had no investment in Pool-Mate and financed and sourced everything ourselves. We did go on Dragons’ Den but got turned down. The Dragons liked the product but they couldn’t see a market for it.

Swimovate Pool-MateSparklesHRHow many have you sold so far?

Since Pool-Mate launched in September 2009 we have sold 12,000 in 60 different countries. The UK is our main market at the moment, as this is where we are based, but we also distribute all over Europe, Singapore and Brazil. The Pool-Mate currently sells in about 20 outlets in the US, but we are working to expand on this as there are seventy million regular swimmers in the USA.

Do you find that recreational swimmers buy the Pool-Mate or is it just performance swimmers?

About half the people who buy the Pool-Mate use it for recreational swimming. They want to be able to relax and think about something else when they swim rather than trying to keep a count of the laps.

So how does it work?

It has a built in accelerometer which monitors regular swimming motion and looks for a gap in the pattern which corresponds to a turn. It works for all strokes and tumble turns as well as for pushing off the side.

So what is next? Any new products or new versions of Pool-Mate planned?

We are currently working on the Pool-Mate Pro which will be a downloadable version of the Pool-Mate. This will have a USB so that you will be able interface with your PC and upload your performance data. It will come with software so that you will be able to analyse your performance statistics, produce graphs and so on. We also plan to have a heat rate version ready for launch in 2011.

Who are your main competitors?

There was nothing like this on the market when we developed the Pool-Mate and there is still no-one else producing a product which does what the Pool-Mate does.

Swimovate