Ford is testing out a buzzing wristband to help its employees maintain appropriate social distancing amid concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. According to Bloomberg, 12 employees at the Troy Design and Manufacturing facility in Plymouth, Michigan, have volunteered to test the wearables, which vibrate when another wristband is nearby.
Samsung Electronics supplied the watches, which incorporate Radiant RFID technology using short-wave Bluetooth to detect the proximity and clustering of other devices. Almost immediately upon detecting another wristband within a specified range, the watch vibrates and sends a color-coded message to the screen, alerting the employee to maintain appropriate distance. Employees and their supervisors can track those close interactions via a daily recap, helping them recognize potentially hazardous patterns to avoid.
“Ford and the UAW are working closely to identify different ways to keep our people safe while they are at work,” a statement from Ford reads. “This is a very small pilot using a dozen volunteers at one manufacturing facility making personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders.”
Ford has ceased all automobile production for the time being, but the carmaker will identify similar social distancing best practices at facilities that have been converted to medical device production. Troy Design and Manufacturing is making medical face shields, according to the automaker, and other facilities are producing ventilators and respirators to help hospitals keep up with resource demands associated with COVID-19.
Although no specific plans have been outlined, Ford might restart car production using those social-distancing lessons as early as next month. The company’s auto factories have been all but silent since March 20. Ford intended to restart production this month, but those plans have been abandoned for the time being. The automaker isn’t alone – other North American manufacturing facilities have been closed for weeks due to the coronavirus tanking demand for new vehicles as would-be shoppers stay home instead of going to the dealership.