The pros and cons of social distancing tech

Proximity warning technologies that monitor social distancing may need to rely on ultra wide band signal (UWB) to minimise interference in the future.

That’s one of the findings from quantitative and qualitative trials conducted by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) for the Construction Innovation Hub.

Three different methodologies for a social distancing system were tested. The Tharsus Bump system is a custom-designed solution that uses UWB ranging between devices.

The Wearable Technologies Eleksen Safer Space system is a modification to the existing Eleksen hub that allows for ranging between devices using Bluetooth.

Finally, the NomoSense system is an absolute positioning system that – in the tests – uses Bluetooth beacons to determine position of a tracking tag, and has an API for users to develop their own systems to use the data.

The quantitative trials were divided into three types: foundation, static, and dynamic. The foundation trials establish the capability of the system under ideal lab conditions and test for alert range and recording of alert duration with no interference. The static trials assess the effect of the human body on performance. The dynamic trials add movement and environmental factors, such as walls, to better reflect day-to-day working environments.

The qualitative trials took place at the MTC in an indoor environment.

Report authors Bethan Nye and Ian Thompson, both of the MTC, noted: “From the technologies tested, there are some clear findings that can be projected to other technologies:

  • Out of the ranging technologies tested, UWB appears be the least susceptible to interference and most accurate when determining proximity.
  • There appears to be a trade-off between responsiveness of a system and the amount of false positives and negatives it indicates.
  • Duration and orientation of an interaction [between two or more people] are of very little commercial interest, and are unlikely to be implemented on any ‘out of the box’ system.
  • The environment that a system is used in (outside or inside) has a noticeable impact on the ranging capabilities. This is most prevalent with Bluetooth but also noticeable in UWB.
  • If an absolute positioning system is chosen, the refresh rate is very important.
  • Data availability is not guaranteed, with the majority of the systems being closed off, hampering customisation for user specific functions and post-pandemic usability.”

Read the full report:

Image: 175798078 © Nuthawut Somsuk |

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