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Among NFL Teams and On the Shop Floor, Wearables Help Prevent COVID-19 Transmission

2/08/2021

While wearable devices have been around for yearsfrom calculator watches in the 70s to Bluetooth headsets in the early 00sthey are at the forefront of safety tech solutions during the global COVID-19 pandemic. A symbol of innovation during a time of crisis, wearables can monitor the real-time health status of workforces and help curb the spread of disease. Nearly a year after the coronavirus emerged, various organizations, from the NFL, NBA, and manufacturers around the globe have adopted wearables in order to keep their teams safe.

The concept of wearables for COVID -19 prevention is simple: Workers and players wear a device that activates an alarm whenever a person comes too close to them. Essentially, teammates can "warn" each other of their own proximity to each other, which can ultimately help prevent disease transmission. Last year, the NFL announced that it would deploy sensors across the country during the course of the football season to help to ensure "adherence to physical distancing guidelines."

Aside from supporting worker safety, wearablesand the technology that supports themhelp support an organization's bottom line. As The New York Times recently reported, after a COVID-19 outbreak cost one manufacturer a two-week shutdown and millions of dollars in lost revenue, the company opted to work with a wearable tech business to safeguard employees and to prevent further transmission and business loss.

While using wearables to prevent the spread of disease is a relatively new practice, wearables in the workforce are nothing new. For years, sports organizations have utilized such devices to capture player data such as speed, player location, distance traveled, and acceleration. Other industries use devices such as smart glasses to improve efficiency and exoskeletons to reduce worker fatigue.

Various wearables operate via ultra wide band technology, or UWB, a low power wireless technology that can transmit data over short distances. UWB that meets the international standard IEEE 802.15.4a, defines the protocol and compatible interconnection for data communication devices using low-data-rate, low-power and low-complexity, short-range radio frequency transmissions in a wireless personal area network (WPAN).

Another standard that encompasses UWB is ISO/IEC 24730-62:2013, Information Technology - Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) - Part 62: High Rate Pulse Repetition Frequency Ultra Wide Band (UWB) Air Interface. The standard defines the air-interface for real time locating systems (RTLS) using a physical layer UWB signaling mechanism (based on IEEE 802.15.4a UWB). The standard was prepared by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), Information Technology, Subcommittee SC 31, Automatic identification and data capture techniques. The U.S. plays a leading role in JTC 1, with ANSI serving as Secretariat and 35 national bodies participating.

For patients in active treatment who are tracking their vital signs with wearables, IEEE 1708, Standard for Wearable Cuffless Blood Pressure Measuring Devices, provides guidelines for manufacturers to qualify and validate their products, for potential purchasers or users to evaluate and select prospective products, and for health care professionals to understand the manufacturing processes on wearable blood pressure devices.

In addition, other standards support the healthcare field when it comes to guidance for such devices.

Another ANS published by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) is ANSI/AAMI HA60601-1-11-2015, General Requirements For Basic Safety And Essential Performance - Collateral Standard: Requirements For Medical Electrical Equipment And Medical Electrical Systems Used In The Home Healthcare Environment. 

These are just a sampling of the standards that support wearables. Access related reading:

On Factory Floors, a Chime and Flashing Light to Maintain Distance (NY Times)

A Comprehensive Review of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Role of IoT, Drones, AI, Blockchain, and 5G in Managing Its Impact (IEEE)

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Beth Goodbaum

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