As the pandemic doesn’t seem to go away anytime soon, the world has started preparing to accept the new normal. Workplaces and factories are gearing up to resume operations after months of lockdown and work-from-home systems. In order to maintain social distancing, consumers and businesses are considering emerging technologies for controlling or limiting the spread of the virus.
Wearable technology has seen adoption in the recent years, establishing itself as an evolving product category. According to CCS Insight, the global sales of smart wearable devices will grow strongly over the next 5 years, with the global market reaching nearly US $ 30 billion by 2023. Today, the category is playing a crucial role in effectively monitoring the practice of social distancing at the workplace. The workplace social distancing products are designed to monitor the six-foot distancing as per the guidelines of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Social distancing technologies are designed to warn the wearer, when they get close to each other, of a defined distance. These devices can hear someone else’s device when they are considered too close to each other, which increases the chances of getting infected. Wearable tech like bracelets or rings is one of the technologies that can help people maintain social distancing. There are different technologies that empower these wearables with the tech like ultra-wideband that enables precise distance measurements between the device, Bluetooth low energy, sound with the concept of echoes, etc.
Also Read: Garment sanitisation for safer and healthier shopping experience
Preparing the world to return with confidence, Samsung – in response to COVID-19 – has launched a social distancing management solution. The Samsung smart watch notifies the wearer when it detects violation in the social distancing measures. An early deployment of the solution at Fortune 100 manufacturer result shows a 50 per cent reduction in the proximity violation in the first 36 hours.
These smart watches work with the Radiant RFID software, cloud-based intelligent dashboard and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 that leverages the use of Bluetooth technology to detect the proximity. The watch vibrates and shows colour coded alert to notify the wearer when it detects any violation in the social distancing measures.
It can be customised according to the business needs and policies such as allowed groups, ad/hoc work teams, etc. It also collects the proximity data so that it can be used whenever needed. The managers/HR personnel can use the customisable dashboards to motivate the team members and keep a track on the behaviour to ensure maximum safety of the employees. The data is also accessible to the employees.
It has a battery life of about 12 hours and supports accessories like mass charging cabinet, break-away bands and UVC disinfection option available.
Romware COVID Radius
Romware, based in Belgium, has been in limelight with high number of enquiries and demand for its latest released Romware COVID Radius, launched in response to COVID-19. The Romware bracelets help businesses to reinforce the social distance guidelines by keeping the employees at a certain distance. The device monitors the location of the wearer and notifies them through a vibration when they are violating the social distancing guidelines.
The solution also supports geo-fencing features that allow the businesses to restrict the number of employees at a particular area to ensure no social gathering happens. Moreover, the contact tracing features allow easy tracing of the employees that have been in close proximity to another employee who might have fallen sick so that the ones that were in contact with him can be quarantined, taking necessary measures. The Romware bracelet was initially designed for industries such as construction, logistics, warehousing, manufacturing and port services.
Is privacy an issue with such wearable options?
One of the major concerns for the solution that tracks behaviour is the personal privacy. Both the above-mentioned solutions have been built to ensure privacy protection of the employees, and to ensure no personal identity is revealed. The Samsung smart watch ensures that they are completely anonymous and no data is linked to the individual’s identity. The only way to reveal the data is through the use of an offline key which is accessible to only the authorised personnel. Moreover, the dashboards also show the behaviour reports in aggregated group and no individual can see others’ behaviours through the watch interface.
While the Romware Ultra-wideband does not require any data connection, it can be used with the data too in case of contact tracking which then accesses the employee’s location. All of the data collected is deleted after 14 days, and it does not require any employee to disclose any data that they don’t want to.
It is important that all of the data shared with the employee and third party is anonymous and does not reveal any personal information. A lot of these wearables do not use any central repository; instead, the data is shared among them and is deleted after the infection window which is typically for around 14 days.
How effective is the solution?
One of the major drawbacks of these devices is that these are only effective if each and every employee is wearing them. This can also be a costly investment for companies of different sizes. Moreover, the exact reason to trace what caused the infection could be difficult to know with factors like how long the people were in contact, what kind of air pattern surrounded them, were they wearing masks, etc.
Moreover, the presence of other people in the work area like mail deliveries, IT support, plumber, cafeteria, etc. cannot be avoided. All of these cannot be given a watch to enter the working space and this might affect the effectiveness of the technology. For example, it can be said if the technology is 50 per cent effective with every employee wearing the wearable, the effectiveness might reduce to 25 per cent when any one of them is not wearing the gadget.
Another issue for the adoption can be to convince the employee about the safeguard of their privacy. Since such solution might reveal the unnecessary details of employees including who they eat their lunch with, how much time they spent on the water cooler, etc., it violates the personal space of employees.
Despite all these limitations, the solution can be thought of as an alternative to provide safe and secure safety measures to the employees with individuals following the safety measures themselves too.