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Wed June 03 2020

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A new market emerges: social distancing solutions

6 May While debate continues around the science behind social distancing, a growing number of companies are seeing it as a business opportunity.

Tended's activity monitoring wristbands have been repurposed as distance monitors
Tended's activity monitoring wristbands have been repurposed as distance monitors

Suppliers of both visible and invisible barriers are seeing opportunity in the threat of virus.

Suppliers of partitioning are rebranding themselves as ‘social distancing solutions specialists’ while tech companies are offering gizmos to keep people apart without the need for physical barriers.

In the former category, Reading-based doors and shutters firm Charter Global this week registered CGT Screens as a subsidiary, offering ‘protective screens & social distancing partitions.

In the latter category, a tech company that makes activity-monitoring wristbands has devised a proximity sensor variant.

Last week we reported on how SiteZone Safety, which has worked in the construction plant sector for several years, was supporting Interserve staff at the NHS Nightingale Birmingham field hospital. SiteZone’s proximity warning devices usually warn digger drivers that someone is in danger of being run over; Interserve is wearing the system as back packs (and now belts) to give the wearing a vibrations alert if he or she gets too close to another wearer.

Mirroring that initiative, Lincoln-based start-up Tended, founded in 2017, is also promoting social distancing technology. Wearers of its wristbands are alerted if they come within two metres of each other.

Before Covid-19, Tended’s target market was remote workers, providing them with a panic button in case of emergency, and a device to report to base if they stop moving for too long or fall suddenly.

The irony of this image of Tended’s strap is that the wearer is probably at more risk from that pole than from the proximity of colleagues
The irony of this image of Tended’s strap is that the wearer is probably at more risk from that pole than from the proximity of colleagues

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Tended’s distancing solution is made up of three elements: its existing wrist strap, an ultra-wideband proximity sensor and a smartphone. Customers set the separation distance they want to enforce. It also provides employers with an overview report of social distance breaches within their organisation.

It also acts as a tracker so that if a worker tests positive for Covid-19, employers can see who, if anyone, they have been in contact with and for how long, and send them an alert to self-isolate or get tested themselves.

However, there is growing debate about the science behind the two-metre rule – its seems that the virus may be much easier to catch off surfaces than from airborne particles. Regular and thorough handwashing remains the absolute primary defence.

Companies targeting the newly emerged social distancing sector may have a narrow window to exploit. Those targeting wash-room facilities may be on safer ground.

Another company finding opportunity in the crisis is Bureau Veritas, the certification body. It is offering third-party assessment of a firm’s Covid-19 readiness to re-open their sites or offices.

For an appropriate fee, it will provide a statement of assurance that it suggests can be displayed on site hoardings, office walls and online. Its assessors will provide a hygiene, disinfection and cleaning assessment, checking social distancing and PPE.

UK chief executive Ken Smith said: “Safely restarting business amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic remains unchartered territory for many, especially construction sites. That’s why, we’ve created our Return To Work Assurance solution to aid business owners, property managers and employers to put in place hygiene, safety, maintenance and regulatory processes that will ensure a safe working and trading environment.”

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