Battery-powered technology keeping us apart – and safe

A significant benefit of technology has been its ability to bring us closer to one another. But since the outbreak of Covid-19 those at the cutting edge of technology have been putting their heads together to think of ways of keeping us apart.

A system that alerts us when we get too close to a colleague or customer is being expanded into broader use as we speak. Think about it, perhaps at lunchtime very soon you might use your mobile app to reserve a virtual place in the lunch queue at your favourite eatery. This technology could also be able to monitor your temperature or breathing alerting you to the need to seek medical attention.

Firms are now aware of the need to provide a limited contact, safe and healthy work environment. The use of battery-powered technology will be vital in this effort to get people back into work safely and thus start moving the economy forward. As human nature being what it is, it was always going to enforce the 2-metre social distancing rule so that technology can help.

Try not to bump

A brand-new technology system called bump has already been developed and is being rolled out in many firms; this will notify users if they get within the specified two metres of another person. This is one of the first pieces of electronic kit that has been developed so that firms can start to bring back more workers safely into the wider workplace.

The new device has been developed by a robotics company based in the United Kingdom. Firms from all different sectors of the economy have shown a great interest in this product, especially firms involved in building and manufacturing. The device is being trialled by two colleges so that the usability of the device can be tested in lots of different environments.

The device works by a method very similar to the sonar system that is used in submarines. People can be accurately located utilising a ping to determine where they are. Unlike Blue Tooth, which is used by tracing systems based on mobile phone technology, the bump system uses radio frequency signals to determine proximity.
The first part of the process involves using Bluetooth signals to locate the person. Then radio-frequency signals are rapidly sent to precisely get an exact fix on where the other person is positioned.

These devices send high-frequency radio waves to one and other, and as well as the devices worn by individuals, there are static devices which monitor specific areas. By this means, work colleagues will immediately be notified if they enter someone’s personal space.

At the end of a shift, the wearer, or the organisation, will be able to look at information that will show how often and where they encountered another work colleague. By using this information, the employee can alter their behaviour so to avoid these interactions where necessary, and potential hotspots can be flagged up to management.

By using this device in the workplace, businesses can be ensured that their employees are keeping the correct distance from other employees. It is easily monitorable, thus stopping the spread of the coronavirus throughout the business.

Judging a safe distance

These devices also help change behaviour as it is envisaged that the employees/students will become more spatially aware and thus, safer interactions can be naturally achieved in the workplace/school. The firm will have the ability to download the data which will track movements and so will the individual member of staff, making them more aware of safety procedures.

Even the company that developed the bump system found out when they trialled it on their premises that most people do not quite grasp how far a distance 2 metres is. There were highly variable individual notions of what the safe space looks like.

The cost of each one of these devices is not insignificant, and a firm with a large workforce may be faced with a rather large bill to kit everyone out. Already some firms have taken the view that these devices are too costly, whereas some firms believe if it gets employees back being productive once more, it is a one-off cost worth taking the hit on.

Once the first batches of bumps are monitored, the ability of the firm to mass-produce them ready for dispatch is readily achievable.

Back to work – but safe

Keeping members of a company’s workforce safe at work while attempting to get back to productivity levels seen before this situation developed is of the utmost importance. Safety of employees has always been a vital component of any business, but in this new situation, it is more vitally important than ever. This has become a driving imperative of decisions firms make.

Many organisations are viewing this family of technology as potentially game-changing in regards to a safe return to work and a move towards a return to pre-Covid productivity levels.

We think this technology is one that will only gain wider acceptance and use in the coming months and years.