One of various companies in Flanders that focus on the development of social distancing applications is Lopos. This spin-off of Ghent University and strategic research center imec created SafeDistance, a wearable that warns wearers with an alarm and vibration when they fail to respect a distance of one and a half meters. Currently, Lopos anticipates demand for their product rising and has decided to hire extra personnel.
Similarly, production is increasing at Rombit, a Flanders-based firm that specializes in digital technology fueled by data analytics and the Internet of Things. Rombit added new functionalities to its existing safety bracelet, the Romware ONE, enabling it to help prevent coronavirus infections on the work floor and allowing employees in construction, logistics and other heavy industries to resume work safely.
“The Port of Antwerp was the first to test the bracelet. We now receive more than a hundred requests every day, three quarters of which come from abroad,” comments Charlotte Sterkens, marketing and communications manager at Rombit.
But these are just a few examples of many. A number of additional Flanders-based companies and start-ups are currently upping the ante in social distancing technology. According to Voka, Flanders’ regional chamber of commerce, no fewer than eight companies and start-ups are active in this domain. ProDongle for example, a company that develops applications to improve driving behavior, created Proximity Alert, a device similar to Romware and SafeDistance that can also be linked to a central system. In this way, employers can determine which personnel come into close contact the most and can reorganize workflows accordingly.
Even more, four entrepreneurs from Flanders collaborated to create the Maggy device. “Maggy allows users to respect social distancing measures without violating privacy laws, because user data is not stored,” explains Allan Segebarth, one of the entrepreneurs involved in the collaboration. Unlike SafeDistance, Romware Covid Radius and Proximity Alert, which operate using ultra-wideband technology, Maggy runs on Bluetooth 5.2.
In addition to guaranteeing social distancing, wearables can be used for contact tracing as well as targeted testing and disinfection purposes. Ghent-based Pozyx developed a wearable Health & Safety Tag. Coupled with an indoor positioning system, this can help companies track workers at a warehouse or factory. In case an employee shows COVID-19 symptoms, it’s possible to obtain a detailed list of areas in which they were active and colleagues with whom they interacted. Based on these insights, specific work areas can be disinfected and reopened faster, while potentially infected employees can be tested for COVID-19 effectively.
To top it all off, Flanders’ expertise in wearables and digital solutions has urged Australian scale-up RightCrowd to call upon its R&D department in Flanders to develop a novel type of wearable, called Presence Control, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. After a single eight-week sprint, the first batch of digital contact-tracing badges were already being shipped around the world.