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Ford Tests Social-Distancing Smartwatch

The devices will vibrate when employees come within six feet of each other.


As manufacturers across the globe are challenged to continue or resume production operations while keeping employees safe from COVID-19, some are forced to be a little creative to ensure workers keep up social distancing.

On this front, Bloomberg News reported that Ford Motor Company is testing out wearable devices for its factory workers that vibrate when employees come within six feet of each other — which is the recommended minimal social distancing the CDC recommends.

Bloomberg cites a Ford spokesperson saying that a dozen workers at its Troy Design and Manufacturing plant in Plymouth, Michigan are wearing Samsung Electronics smartwatches that use software from technology firm Radiant RFID. The devices rely on Bluetooth short-wave and low-power technology to detect proximity and clustering of other activated devices, thus keeping those workers at least six feet apart.

The report says those workers receive a vibration and a color-coded warning on the device letting them know when they breech six feet from another person and in near real-time. Ford supervisors also receive alerts and reports they can use to monitor employees’ social distancing.

Ford may deploy the devices more widely once it reopens its temporarily closed manufacturing plants. Ford announced the closure of all its North America plants on March 18. The company hoped to reopen a Mexico plant on April 6 and several key US plants on April 14, but said March 31 that it was delaying any re-openings indefinitely.

The exception to those delays is Ford’s Plymouth plant, which has been overhauled to produce more than 3 million face shields, along with face masks and reusable gowns for health care workers. Workers in Plymouth are also required to complete a daily online survey on their health and those they’re in contact with.

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