Distancing and Contact Tracing
In times where companies want to re-open and resume their business and governments want to loosen the lock-down, extra care should be taken to the well being of employees. Distancing protocols are put in place to minimize the risk of infections. To assist in embracing these protocols, measure the level of compliance or simply minimizing the spread in case someone is infected, SynchronicIT can provide the tools needed.
Based on existing proven solutions made by SynchronicIT an implementation is developed for contact tracing using wearable devices. It is based on and compatible with the Exposure Notification framework of the Apple and Google partnership. This choice has been made to use a proven approach for preserving privacy and allows compatibly / interoperability with other initiatives. Inter-operability and collaboration will be the key to success to have the best coverage in a work environment with visitors, but also in generic public places.
An important extension to the Exposure Notification framework is made with the integration of Ultra-wide band (UWB). Not only BLE will be used to estimate the distance between two people. UWB is used to measure the distance in case both devices have the support. That allows a reliable distance measurement at centimeter level.
Solutions are offered as readily available wearables, as firmware ported to your own devices, or on license basis to allow integration into existing solutions under our guidance.
Our full featured wearables contain a lot of technology, UWB, BLE, NFC, wireless charging, IMU sensor and LED/button for user interaction. Our approach with UWB is unique. With Synchronicit Fusion we have developed network topologies which allow very high density in tags (read wearables), maximum airtime occupation (system wide), freedom in update-rates per tag or tag groups. The measurement method is not TWR nor TDoA but using our own unique approach. The solution results in accuracy equal to TWR but also with a battery life close to TDoA with tight schedules to have maximum density.
For contact tracing wearable - to - wearable distances will be measured concurrently with measurements of the wearable it's absolute position, when a SynchronicIT Fusion infrastructure is installed
Technologies used for contact tracing
BLE is commonly availalbe in smart phone and a lot of wireless devices. The radio uses minimal power, so it allows to make solutions which can run on a coin cell battery. Distance measurements are based on signal strength (RSSI) and therefore not so precise. Expect at best a 1 [m] resolution.
As BLE shares the bandwidth with WiFi but also every other application using the 2.4 Ghz band, reliability can be an issue.
BLE is a cost-effective solution where reliability and accuracy are less important. Interoperability with other devices and power saving are the key factors
Ultra-Wide Band (UWB)
UWB uses a pulsed radio signal to transmit data. The radio uses a very precise, with picosecond resolution, clock to timestamp the transmission and reception of messages. Using these timestamp, a distance is measured based on the air-time of a message. A resolution on [mm] level can be given with an accuracy on [cm] level.
Due to the nature of the signal of UWB, issues with multi-path reflections, RF collisions, etc are not applicable.
Only Apple has made smart phones with an UWB radio at this stage. The API on how to use the UWB radio is still closed, so using UWB is only applicable for other (custom) devices.
UWB is not as power efficient as BLE, and slightly less cost-effective. But it does give a more stable and reliable data transfer + measurement, and the band is not shared with many other radios and applications.
Privacy measures used in BLE are also applicable for UWB.
GPS / GNNS
GPS and all derivatives like Glonass / BeiDou, are using orbital satellites to pin-point your absolute position on the earth. Most common use cases are (car) navigation, asset tracking during transport and fleet management. Most phones also have a GPS receiver and therefore opens the option to do contact tracing.
Approximate position resolution is in several meters and only work outdoor.
The data only gives the location of every user and not the distance between them. An external server must match these positions to estimate the contact distance. The margin of this distance is by far bigger than the actual resolution of interest and therefore not applicable for contact tracing.
As a user must share his/her actual whereabouts with a server, this is impossible to do it in a privacy secure manor.
Many proposed solutions for contact tracing have their focus on using a smart-phone app and therefore limit its usage. A major portion of the people in the high risk group are not (or not always) carrying their smart phone with them or don’t even have access to a smart-phone app. For instance elderly people, children but an occupation could also limit carrying a smart-phone all day with you. Carrying your phone in your pocket (and thus not in a purse..) is also not a given. With the option to also use a wearable enables it for some cases, makes it easier, more convenient and therefore overall more probable that it’s used, and in the right manor.
Bluetooth based wearables
Besides our own BLE tags, SynchronicIT offers different BLE based tags / beacons from different vendors. For public applications, the Apple / Google privacy compatible privacy-safe application is available. In corporate environments, it can be extended or opened up for better integration in business processes in parallel with the exposure notification services.
In case means to alert the wearer exist, alert will be given when social distance isn't respected.
Several BLE wearables are readily available in low volume. high volume can be arranged in short notice.
Ultra-Wide Band wearables
SynchronicIT offers tags with Ultra-wide band (UWB) and BLE combined. UWB allows a reliable precise distance measurement between devices using Time-of-Flight (ToF) of the RF signal.
BLE and UWB are used in close integration. UWB can be used as an extension to the privacy-safe services to improve the (social) distance estimation and further integrated into the SynchronicIT Fusion system for a full RTLS solution,while still monitoring the social distances from public applications based on the Apple / Google initiative.
The SynchronicIT UWB/BLE wearables are readily available.
Based on SynchronicIT own reference designs in hardware and software, which are already used in existing products, SynchronicIT offers custom integration services. Exposure Notification services can be added to your existing product, additional modules / electronics can be integrated.Full product design in software, hardware and mechanics (enclosure) is offered to meet the requirements for high-demanding applications.
Critical components are on stock to allow short development and prototyping periods.
As not all use cases have the same requirements, SynchronicIT provides solutions in three levels of contact tracing. Customization, combining of solutions and integration into the system-integrator platform is possible.
Fully anonymous contact tracing
Fully anonymous contact tracing based on the Exposure Notification framework with the optional extension of UWB. The goal of Exposure Notification framework is to determine who has been in close physical proximity to an infected person, without revealing the contact’s identity or where this contact occurred. To achieve this goal, users use a smartphone app running on the background and/or use a wearable that broadcasts an ephemeral, pseudo-random number representing the user and also record pseudo-random numbers observed from other smartphones and wearables in close proximity. All recorded tracing data is only stored locally on the device and is not shared nor uploaded to a server. For devices which have the option, an alarm will be given in case you’re in close proximity. Based on distance and time, this alarm will be more persuasive.
Whenever an user is diagnosed with an infection, a derived pseudo-random anonymous set of numbers from her phone or wearable can be uploaded to a central server.
This step should only be done with the approval of a health authority and the explicit permission of the individual.
Other instances of compatible apps and wearables can use the combined anonymous data from the server to locally compute whether the app’s user was in physical proximity to an infected person.
Based on duration and frequency of encounters, a risk estimation of a potential propagation of the virus. In case the app detects a high risk, it will inform the user.
Centralized anonymous contact tracing
Centralized (semi-)anonymous contact tracing can be used in work environments (or similar cases) where the response time becomes more critical. By actively sharing the recorded tracing data, it is possible to track a chain of contacts. Proof of compliance with distancing protocols can be made.
The communicated data is still anonymous externally and only shows contact distance details. With applying stationary beacons / anchors areas can be monitored on the amount of people present and average dwell time in corridors and public areas.
Real-Time Location Service (RTLS)
Real-Time Location Service (RTLS) implementation using SynchronicIT Fusion where, based on the use of BLE and/or UWB, a level accuracy can be achieved for tracking not only the distance between people but also where they are located (or where they have been). Common use-cases are factory automation, warehouse management, staff and assent tracking, but also behavioral analysis in the elderly care to detect dementia at an early stage. With the integration the Exposure Notification framework, levels of privacy can be offered, which allows public use-cases which weren’t allowed in the past.
To provide a fast-scalable solution, the wearable is based on a chip-set commonly used and readily available in several designs. With several production facilities, agreements are in place to allow short delivery times on high volumes. Designs based on the wearable reference design containing BLE and UWB sufficient stock of critical components is secured.
Further extending this with GPS, LTE-M, LoRA NB-IoT and/or any other radio is possible as SynchronicIT Fusion is used as a basis. Extending the safety of your staff / co-workers with a higher level of system integration and business process optimization can be made possible using the same equipment and building blocks.
The market for RTLS and Location Based Services is projected to grow from $16 billion in 2019 to $40 billion in 2024 [MarketsandMarkets]. In the age of the Internet of Things, RTLS applications are numerous and varied from Industrial, Automotive, Healthcare to Consumer. With the core semiconductor (UWB) components now in the latest generation of smartphones the market for precise location is set to grow exponentially to reach this projected number. SynchronicIT focus markets will include Enterprise Resource Management in Industrial, Consumer and Healthcare verticals and selling through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers, System Integrators and distributors.
If your interested in partnering with SynchronicIT please contact us....