Reopening factories and letting workers return to work sites following the COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful and challenging. Although businesses should encourage workers to work from home if possible, it is crucial to acknowledge that a substantial number of workers cannot do their jobs from home.
The inevitable reopening of business has raised the question of how companies can minimize the risk brought by the viral disease to their employees. The short answer is monitoring and tracking. Cameras are usually the first choice – but they may raise privacy concerns, cause psychological discomfort, and create legal issues regarding use in certain areas. Besides, the lack of range awareness and using visual images makes distance tracking and activity history lookup extremely difficult. Therefore, it is necessary to have alternative technologies that do not raise all of these concerns and can efficiently perform tracking jobs. In this blog, we explore the potential of using ultra-wideband (UWB) radar sensors to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.
Respiratory and vital sign monitoring:
- Thanks to UWB radar sensors' high spatial resolution, the sensors can detect the breath rate and volume of workers. Symptoms of pneumonia cause signature breath patterns that can easily be identified by observing lung activity. UWB radar sensors detect lung activity remotely, allowing employers to find out if workers are experiencing respiratory issues as they walk into the work site. The technology can be used combined with thermal imaging technologies to increase measurement accuracy. Additionally, the technology can be used to monitor workers' health conditions in a harsh environment. Examples of players in this sector include Vayyar, Acconeer, XandarKardian, and Keenly Health.
Worker distance monitoring:
- Small low-energy UWB radar sensors integrated into workwear can help employees practice social distancing in factories. The sensors alert users when the distance between two sensors becomes smaller than 2 meters. Additionally, the material identification feature of UWB sensors allows them to distinguish humans from their surroundings; therefore, they can still trigger the alarm without compromising social distancing guidelines when persons not equipped with the sensors approach. Examples of players in this sector include Novelda, XandarKardian, and Acconeer.
Real-time worker location TRACKING:
- In some scenarios, workers may be found to be infected with COVID-19. Upon finding out the positive test result, medical providers can look up the location history of the infected worker and identify those who had close contact with the worker, thus allowing the other workers to know their risk. This function may not be effective in tracing the spread of the disease, as the range is limited within the contained space, but the value is in providing transparency and easing workers' anxiety. Examples of players in this sector include Pozyx, Kinexon, and Umain.
- People can contract the virus by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their eyes, noses, or mouths. UWB radar sensors enable virtual buttons to avoid unnecessary physical touch. The high spatial resolution of extremely high-frequency UWB radar sensors can detect very subtle motions of the hands, allowing them to identify gestures. The workers can perform actions like button pushing, knob turning, and door opening without touching any surfaces, thus reducing the chances of viral transmission. Examples of players in this sector include Infineon and Acconeer.
The versatility of UWB radar sensors allows them to conduct quick medical screening, distancing monitoring, and location tracking as well as enable touch-free controls. Using UWB radar sensors brings three significant benefits:
- Using one technology to achieve multiple functions can significantly lower the cost and time of setting up systems for time-sensitive use cases and reduce the operation and maintenance costs in the future.
- Compared to cameras, UWB radar sensors offer better anonymity.
- UWB radar sensor systems record data in the form of the coordinates, making historical data lookup easier than processing images for both computers and business.
Those planning to reopen their sites should consider using UWB radar sensor technologies to help them create relatively safe and controllable work environments.