Safe Spacer wearable

‘Safe Spacer’ wearable could help ensure social-distancing compliance

Image credit: IK Multimedia

Italy's IK Multimedia has applied its music technology design and manufacturing expertise to devise a hardware solution to help people maintain social distancing as lockdown rules are relaxed.

With many countries now exploring ways to carefully emerge from lockdown conditions and return to some degree of normal life, the need for the general population to maintain safe social distancing remains key in suppressing the coronavirus pandemic and avoiding a dreaded second wave.

Workers returning to factories and offices are particularly exposed, given the close proximity of colleagues for sustained periods of the day, as companies and countries look to restart their economies.

Based in Modena, Italy, IK Multimedia - most famous for its music technology products - has now created “Safe Spacer”, a wearable device to help workers and visitors maintain safe social distancing.

IK has been directly affected by the pandemic - with Italy being the first European country badly hit by Covid-19 - and it is only now able to restart production at its manufacturing facilities.

IK developed Safe Spacer to help its own workers and employees work safely during the re-opening phase. Manufactured in its own Modena factory, Safe Spacer uses ultra-wideband technology to precisely sense when other devices breach the universally accepted 2m personal exclusion zone, alerting both wearers with a choice of either visual (LED lights), vibrating, or audio alarm.

The device, with styling similar to the Apple Watch, runs wirelessly on a rechargeable battery, with a patent-pending battery-saving algorithm that IK claims enables it to last for weeks on a single charge. Safe Spacer syncs to devices wirelessly via NFC or Bluetooth, minimising the need for excessive handling.

Safe Spacer uses ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to sense precise measurements down to approximately 10cm, which is ten times more accurate than Bluetooth applications. UWB also maintains its accuracy when multiple devices are in close proximity, something Bluetooth can struggle with.

Space Spacer wearable, exploded view

Image credit: IK Multimedia

IK’s machine-learning algorithm goes beyond merely tracking the position of other units to also track how they are moving about in the space. In this way, the device is able to anticipate contacts and alert users before they happen, even if they’re not paying attention.

With user privacy a thorny issue for government contact-tracing apps, IK has taken steps to ensure that Safe Spacer only tracks the wearer’s position relative to other units. No traditional location information or other sensitive data is captured and only contacts are logged for potential tracing.

There will also be a free app for iOS and Android, where the user or a company administrator can sync and associate units with wearers; customise alert distances and settings; monitor and trace accidental contacts, and more. An entire team or facility’s units can be managed directly from a single smartphone.

Enrico Iori, CEO, IK Multimedia, said: "We created Safe Spacer to help our Italian factory workers maintain a safe distance during re-opening. It’s easy to use, fast to deploy, private and secure, so it can be used comfortably in any situation. We hope this solution helps other companies feel secure as they re-open, too.”

Safe Spacer is scheduled for release in early Q3, directly from IK Multimedia for €99.99 (excluding taxes).

Last week, Edinburgh-based Reactec repurposed its existing monitoring tool to help workers in sectors such as construction ensure they keep a safe distance from colleagues. The wrist-worn “Safedistance” tool has been reprogrammed to alert workers if they break the two-metre social distancing rule.

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