Introduction: Whilst the US Navy has been very systematic about validating Navy dive computer algorithms, there has been little documented or published evidence of rigorous testing of the algorithms in commercial off-the-shelf dive computers. This paper reports the evaluation of four algorithms used in these - Bühlmann ZHL-16C; VPM-B; Suunto-RGBM; EMC-20H - by comparison with US Navy experimental dives with known decompression sickness outcomes.
Methods: Three specific tests were developed to test the algorithms' ability to mitigate decompression sickness: Total decompression time; no stop times and first stop depth. Output of commercial decompression algorithms were compared to either the probability of decompression sickness (PDCS) results from US Navy man-trials or statistical models derived from PDCS data. The algorithms were first tested with default conservative factors, then these factors were adjusted if the tests were not initially passed. The last verification step was to compare the output of the wrist computer with that of the full desktop algorithm.
Results: This testing indicated that, whilst none of the four passed all of the proposed tests with factory-default conservatism, ZHL-16C and Suunto-RGBM could be made to pass by adjusting user-defined settings.
Conclusions: Man-trial data on PDCS is available to the non-US Navy scientific community for testing of commercial decompression algorithms. This type of validation testing can be very informative on how to best use available commercial dive computers to improve diver safety.
Keywords: Computers-diving; Decompression; Decompression sickness; Deep diving; Simulation.
Copyright: This article is the copyright of the author who grants Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine a non-exclusive licence to publish the article in electronic and other forms.