Wearables and social distancing (part 1): the smart vest

In the midst of the de-escalation phase, one of the most important measures for preventing the spread of Covid-19 is social distancing. This involves maintaining a distance of 2 meters between people who are not members of the same household. And, although there are discrepancies about how long this measure will last, it is clear that after this health crisis physical distancing will still be present in one way or another in our day-to-day life.

After so many months of living with the threat of Covid-19, we are all aware of the fundamental role that technology plays in the fight to control the pandemic. Among the wide range of technological options, wearables appear to have great potential for monitoring the population, changing habits or knowledge and keeping track of our health. Now that we have entered a new stage in the management of the pandemic – the ‘new normal’ – wearable devices can help us respect security measures such as physical distancing.

Bodyguard 2.0, the smart vest that ensures safety at work

This is an interactive safety vest, manufactured by the German company Linden Material Handing, which warns users of possible dangers through light signals, vibrations and sounds.

Initially, this portable device was designed to protect employees in large areas working alongside forklifts and other handling vehicles. The noise of the work in the warehouses, production lines and exteriors, traffic including forklifts and trucks, as well as high shelves, narrow aisles, stacked goods and crossings with poor visibility can create dangerous situations for workers on foot.

The objective of this wearable was initially to warn wearers about such situations through vibrations, visual and acoustic signals, at the moment an approaching truck is detected for example. Now this system is also being applied to help wearers comply with social distancing guidelines in these same spaces, where maintaining distances is not always easy. The smart vest with a weight of 300 g and an 8-hour battery life (a complete working shift) is priced at € 499 per unit.

The Austrian manufacturer of cargo vehicles, Schwarzmüller, is the first company in Europe to implement its use as a measure of protection for its workers. Via telephone statements to EFE, its spokesman, Michael Prock, stated that the acquisition of this system represented the recognition of the need to assume “responsibility for guaranteeing the health of the workers”; and he adds, “we also avoid potentially costly interruptions in our production lines in the event of a positive (for coronavirus), which would force us to place numerous workers in quarantine”.