Tech used to track NBA players has been repurposed to enforce social distancing in factories and distribution centers. Here's how it works.
- Localization data company Kinexon has repurposed its technology to help workers stay distanced from one another in factories.
- The SafeZone solution alerts users when they are standing too close to another person.
- Kinexon has used similar technology for tracking the performance of NBA players and in other industries as well.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Social distancing just got a technological leg-up on some factory floors, thanks to a new solution from localization data company Kinexon.
“We developed an ultra-precise, real-time localization technology of people and objects that can be used in digitizing factories and shop floors in the industrial world,” Kinexon CEO Mehdi Bentanfous told Business Insider.
The new solution, called SafeZone, helps workers maintain distance between one another in factories and other large centers. The technology alerts users either visually or audibly in real-time when they are standing too close to another person, thanks to wearable wristband sensors, which use radio frequency waves to provide precise location data on the users to the inch.
Before the pandemic was even a thought, the company had already developed a location-focused technology for its vast portfolio of clients that monitored the distance and movement of people and objects with radio frequency waves. The company boasts an impressive clientele in the automotive and sports industries, ranging from BMW to the New York Knicks.
But with the NBA season canceled for the year and the need for social distancing in certain industries becoming more dire, Kinexon turned to its existing products to find a solution. And SafeZone was born.
Factories are hotbeds for infection
“The motivation of developing SafeZone has been because of the need that we saw,” Bentanfous said. “And the value add that our technology provides.”
As the coronavirus pandemic persists in the US, meat processing plants and fulfillment and distribution centers have become hotbeds for illness and infection. Many centers have implemented social distancing guidelines to curb spreading, but in many cases, the need for a more rigorous solution was clear.
To Bentanfous, already having the precise sensor technology that measures distance gave the company a head start on finding a solution. The next step was to modify the goal of the technology to measure the distance between two people as opposed to the location of one individual in real-time.
“The technology is the same,” Bentanfous said, regarding SafeZone and the company’s previous solutions. “What we calculate out of it, it’s different.”
Because the bones of the technology were already in place, Kinexon was able to develop, test, and prototype SafeZone within two weeks — all while working entirely from home.
Though the SafeZone technology cannot account for employees wearing masks or running fevers, there are other ways the technology can come in handy. For example, SafeZone does not provide data on an individual’s identity but if an employee were to test positive for the virus, companies could be able to determine which other employees were in close proximity with that person by analyzing the movement data of the infected individual.
Kinexon technology is used by 70% of the NBA
A similar technology from Kinexon has been used to track the performance of athletes in a variety of sports. Across Europe and the US, more than 100 sports teams work with Kinexon to measure the movement and performance of athletes on the court or field.
More than 70% of the NBA — or over 20 teams — currently use Kinexon technology for their players, mostly as a means to monitor health and prevent injury.
“It’s a very small and light sensor so that the players do not even realize they’re wearing a sensor,” Bentanfous said of the technology, which is seamlessly integrated into the equipment or uniforms of NFL, NHL, and collegiate athletes.
The SafeZone solution was created from a slight modification of this type of existing technology, made for the new purpose of measuring distance. Though Kinexon could not confirm the names of the companies currently using the technology, a representative said that top players in food and beverage, automotive parts, and global logistics are currently testing the product in their factories and centers.
Bentanfous added that Kinexon is currently in talks with retailers and grocers to possibly implement the technology in stores.
“Technically speaking, it can be used everywhere,” Bentanfous said. “So if you are able to implement the sensor and get the persons wearing the sensors, there is no limit for that.”
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