Effective social distancing or controlled proximity is a keystone to a successful return to education and employment as most of us know it. If we can stay far enough away from each other long enough, health experts tell us, we’ll have our best chance to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Until we can take advantage of effective treatments and safe vaccines, the message is clear; Keep your distance or people will get sick, and some will die. We’ve written about several technologies developed for industrial safety applications that are re-purposed to help maintain social distance. Kinetic’s Reflex wearable, originally designed to monitor worker posture, now adds real-time proximity alerts and contact tracing capabilities. UK strategic machinery company Tharsus developed Bump to detect proximity and to alert employees and employers to contact hotspots and facility movement flows. British Columbia-based Proxxi’s Halo wristband alerts workers with haptic feedback when other wristbands are near. Halo can also assist with contact tracing.

Kinexon is a Munich-based IoT company with a U.S. headquarters in Chicago. Kinexon specializes in scalable connectivity hardware, artificial intelligence-driven connectivity, and industrial automation. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Kinexon focused on real-time localization data in industry, sports, and entertainment. Kinexon’s COVID-19 solution is SafeZone. Safezone builds on data from a wearable sensor that detects and alerts users to potential physical distance compromise. The SafeZone sensor uses ultrawideband (UWB) frequency detection to discover other nearby sensors.

There are two SafeZone versions: Basic and Extended. With both versions, users mount a SafeZone unit on an individual wristband each day. The Basic Version SafeZone doesn’t require additional company infrastructure. Companies can configure proximity and duration thresholds. When another sensor gets too close, a visual warning (a flashing light) alerts the wearer. If the sensors are too close for too long, the device sounds an audible alert.sounds.

The Extended Version SafeZone adds contact tracking, according to Kinexon. Personal information isn’t registered or detected by the SafeZone wearable or monitoring system, but the system tracks individual device data. In the case of a positive COVID-19 infection identification, the system can track the devices that were in critical contact with the infected person based on sensor ID, time, duration, and distance. The system tracks historical records to efficiently and quickly identify the users who need to be informed and isolated. The extended version technologies have been used with industrial, entertainment, and professional sports clients, including the NBA. According to the company, SafeZone technology is scalable to large industrial applications.

It’s easy to wish COVID-19 would just go away, but that’s not realistic. For this pandemic, and for inevitable future outbreaks, technology such as SafeZone and the other proximity detectors could make the difference in a safe return to work, education, and much of life as we’ve known it.