MTC partnership to aid workplace social distancing

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has partnered with advanced robotics manufacturer Tharsus to support the roll-out of cutting-edge wearable technology which could help social distancing in the workplace.

The MTC is carrying out an independent evaluation of the new technology, known as Bump, which uses wearable and static devices operating on radio frequencies to alert wearers when they are getting too close to another person.

The system is designed to improve personal distance behaviour by recording interactions between devices every time someone comes into contact with another person's Bump zone. The wearable device will alert the user if contact is made, and each interaction will be recorded in the system.

As well as alerting wearers, Bump can be used by employers to monitor interactions, providing additional insight into movement throughout the workplace, and the intelligence to inform social-distancing guidelines.

"This is the first time in living memory that people have been told to socially distance for their own safety," said Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus. "At the same time, the pandemic has forced businesses to re-consider their responsibility as employers, with the health of workforces now more than ever one of the most important metrics facing leadership teams.

"We have created Bump to solve these two issues - to give people the help they need to stay distanced and safe, and provide employers with the assurances they need so they can operate responsibly."

In its role as a partner in the Construction Innovation Hub, the MTC is completing an independent validation of the technology on behalf of industry to evaluate how Bump can be deployed now, and for manufacturing activities in the future.

Not only manufacturing facilities will benefit from the technology, with Bump able to be rolled out in offices, warehouses, laboratories and social workplace environments such as canteens.

Palmer continued: "Working with the MTC has played a valuable role in getting Bump from idea to market. Their facilities offer the unique environment to test, demonstrate and develop a system like Bump. The insight and engagement which their team brings has delivered valuable feedback assisting us to develop Bump rapidly into a fully resolved system.

"In particular, understanding how Bump can fit into the manufacturing ecosystem and the use of Bump will change wearer behaviour in the long term."

Following the production of 2,500 devices for trial, the system is now available for commercial use.

Bump is just one of the major projects that the MTC has been involved in during the Covid-19 pandemic, with its engineers collaborating with Rolls-Royce and London Hospitals to develop an intubation shield to protect frontline NHS workers carrying out ventilation procedures.

Dr Clive Hickman, Chief Executive of the MTC, added: "Social distancing is one of the most impactful behavioural changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and as businesses look at ways in which they can return to work, it's essential that these key measures are maintained, and technological developments are key to this.

"We have a team of engineers who are working closely with Tharsus to evaluate Bump so that, when ready, we can inform industry of the most efficient and effective ways to implement the new system. Our sector is playing a vital role in the UK's fight against Covid-19 and projects like this, that are designed to get people working again safely, will be critical to supporting the economic recovery."