MTC partnership to help workplace social distancing29 July 2020

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

The MTC is carrying out an independent evaluation of the new technology designed to support return to work strategies following the Covid-19 pandemic. The system, known as ‘Bump’, uses wearable and static devices operating on radio frequencies to alert wearers when they are getting too close to another person.

The system is aimed at improving personal distance behaviour by recording the interactions between devices every time someone comes into contact with another person's Bump zone. The wearable device will alert them if contact is made, with each interaction recorded.

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.

The system has been developed by Northumberland-based advanced robotics manufacturer Tharsus in response to the measures put in place by the government to tackle the spread of Covid-19. In its role as a partner in the Construction Innovation Hub, the MTC is completing an independent validation of the technology to evaluate how Bump can be deployed now, and for manufacturing activities in the future.

In addition to manufacturing facilities, it is said that Bump can be rolled out in offices, warehouses, laboratories and social workplace environments.

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus, says: “This is the first time in living memory that people have been told to socially distance for their own safety. 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.”

He adds: “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.”

Dr Clive Hickman, chief executive of the MTC, says: “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 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.”

Bump is just one of the major projects that the MTC has been involved in to help combat Covid-19.

Adam Offord

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