SafeteamsOn Feb. 2, 2020, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., a Montreal company called PixMob turned 65,000 thousand 49ers, Chiefs, Shakira and J.Lo fans into a living, moving work of light art using bracelets that turned lights on and off based on the wearer’s location in the stadium at Super Bowl LIV.

Two years later, that same company has launched a new project, called Safeteams, to use that same basic technology to help manufacturing companies keep their teams safe from COVID-19.

“For us, we realize it’s about maintaining steady production,” said Evelyne Rousseau, marketing director for Safeteams. “Stopping the line due to a positive COVID case is very costly, so having a technology-based tracing solution, combined with social distancing, masks, and other safety measures, helps keep companies running longer and minimizing stoppages.”

The basis of the technology is Bluetooth antennas mounted on some form of wearable item, creating web of devices talking to each other, and to a cloud service that keeps track of them all. While the company had largely used bracelets in their entertainment environments, they found the safety and production needs of manufacturers are better met by clip-on wearables similar to badges.

“Data is collected in real-time by these wearable devices worn by employees,” said Rousseau. “If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer can quickly track which other employees were in contact with them and instantly know who else may have been exposed. This eliminates relying on manual contact tracing which takes longer which could result in further exposure, and on personal memory which is often incomplete.”

Safeteams is currently working with companies ranging between 100 team members to thousands in both the U.S. and Canada. 

Rousseau says the company had to make significant changes to their technology to meet the needs of the manufacturing environment. One sector that they have worked heavily with, especially since it has been hard hit by the crisis, is food production. For those clients, they had to develop methods to handle the extreme sanitation needs, as well as extreme temperature environments near and inside commercial ovens and freezers.  Rousseau also said they had to test to confirm their Bluetooth transmitters and receivers were able to communicate around the heavy metal machines and heavy electrical wires that exist in a factory.

“At the beginning, we did our homework to allow us to make sure innovation efforts were led by clients,” said Safeteams Marketing Specialist Danny Tran. “Our research and development team was involved in every meeting with clients to make sure our technology works with their specific needs.”

Additionally, with some areas of the U.S. and Canada experiencing social pressures against taking full advantage of known safety measures against COVID-19 (e.g. wearing face covers, maintaining six feet of social distance, etc.) Tran says their clients are finding the implementation of the tracking devices at work has encouraged their clients’ teams to adhere to safety protocols.

“Most manufacturing companies already have adaptations already for health and safety systems. These devices are a safety net for all the other protocols already in place,” said Tran. “So just having these helps encourage employees to follow all the other protocols in place.”

Tran and Rousseau also say their system keeps employee and employer privacy in mind as well. To start, the devices are only worn at work. They are picked up at the beginning of the shift, and dropped off at the end of the day, so employees don’t have to worry about intrusion on their off-the-clock life.  Second, all the data is anonymous to Safeteams. The clips only have an ID number, and only the company’s HR department knows who is wearing which clip number.

With this innovative use of existing technology, equipment manufacturers can take another step in keeping their teams safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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