The bracelet-style device from Lincoln firm Tended is also designed to enable ‘contact tracing’, letting employers see if workers reporting a Covid-19 diagnosis have been in contact with colleagues, and for how long.
The company hopes the system, which combines an existing wearable with an ultra-wideband proximity sensor and a smartphone app, will help “accelerate the transition back to safe working across a range of industries”. Its initial focus is for companies working in construction, manufacturing, infrastructure and logistics.
“We’re working with large corporations that have had to stop running and send their workers home because they can’t effectively enforce safe distancing measures. It costs them millions each day, and they are unable to carry out essential works,” said Tended CEO Leo Scott Smith.
The firm said Arup will provide “independent and objective” support to companies that want to trial the technology, helping them review its suitability and “navigate the complex barriers” involved in such a project.
Before roll-out, companies can set the minimum separation distance they want to enforce. 2m is the government guideline for social distancing. The wearables then notify workers if they are too close to each other, and suggests they move further apart.
“We’ve implemented ultra-wideband technology because of its incredibly high accuracy and resistance to interference, and we decided to combine it with our wearable to provide a solution that can ensure the safety of employees at work,” said Smith.
The system also reportedly provides employers with an overview of any ‘social distance breaches’ within their organisation and shows how long employees have been in contact with others. If workers test positive for Covid-19 they can update their smartphone app, notifying the employer and generating a record of people they have been in contact with. These people can then be sent an alert to self-isolate or seek testing.
Technological solutions for contact tracing and surveillance have been met with some scepticism and concern, and fears that they could lead to permanent intrusions into privacy.
Tended said privacy and security “have always been a high priority”, and said employee location is only tracked and shared in “critical situations”. Personal details are not included in distance breach data.
“We believe technology will provide the means to get the world moving again, and also keep people safe. We’re looking at fast development and deployment because we know we need to act now,” said Smith.
The company did not announce which corporations it is working with on trials.
Do you use wearable devices at work? Would you wear the Tended system? Let Professional Engineering deputy editor Joseph Flaig know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.