The UK is now in its twelfth week of the government-issued lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. However, even if the lockdown measures are relaxed in the next few months, it is likely that social distancing rules will be kept in place for a longer period.

Estimote, a hardware company based in the US that makes productivity and safety devices for workplaces, has recently announced the release of a brand new wearable safety device. The device is designed to use Bluetooth technology to scan the area around it for other wearable devices and track how close they are together. The idea behind the new technology is that key workers such as hospital and warehouse staff would receive an alert when they get too close to each other to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What hardware does the new safety wearable have?

The hardware installed in Estimote’s new safety wearable device includes Bluetooth proximity sensors, GPS tracking, radio connectivity, built-in LTE and a rechargeable battery. The device can also be operated manually so that the wearer can change the status of their health to ‘verified infected’, ‘symptomatic’ and ‘certified health’. When a wearable user manually updates their health status to indicate that they are possibly infected, the people they have surrounded themselves with (using location history and proximity data) will be notified. The data is currently collected for internal business use but the company has revealed that they are looking into ways that they can collaborate with external health organisations to use the information on a wider scale.

Estimote’s development process

Estimote has been developing sensor tech for companies for nearly ten years and has collaborated with companies including Amazon and Apple. Co-founder Steve Cheney explained that the company recognised early on in the spread of the pandemic that the technology could be used to address health concerns but the business was already 18 months into the development process.

“This stack has been in full production for 18 months,” he said. “We can program all wearables remotely (they’re LTE connected). Say a factory deploys this — we write an app to the wearable remotely. This is programmable IoT. Who knew the virus would require proof of health vis-a-vis location diagnostics tech?”

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