In addition to wearing a mask and frequently washing your hands, social distancing provides the third leg of the COVID-19 prevention stool. Unlike in public settings, private companies have their own interest to ensure their employees and other customers are safe and social distancing is an undisputed deterrent for the virus. In fact, recent research concluded that observing a two meter (6.6 feet) social distance (instead of 1 meter) could provide a 50% risk reduction to the virus. A company in Germany has developed a sensor-based solution to indicate safe distancing.
Already implemented in the REWE Center in Heidelberg’s Mathematikon, a retail store, InnovationLab’s Smart Distance Control System is an alternative to approaches that use cameras that have accuracy and privacy issues. The sensing is performed by printed high-accuracy, high-volume roll-to-roll electronics implemented in smart mats. Embedded in the smart mat is an intelligent sensor matrix with more than 8,000 individual sensors spaced at 1 cm intervals. This spacing enables differentiation between human steps and false triggers such as the wheels of a grocery cart. In addition to promoting safe social distancing in the store, the smart mat platform could be customized to provide a business incentive such analysis of in-store traffic.
The installed system uses the sensor array to control a traffic light-style indicator by detecting when a shopper stands on it. When a person stands on the mat, their presence is detected and the smart mat system displays a red light. When no one is there, a green light is displayed signaling that the next customer can proceed. It may be a small step, but at this point, anything to help reduce the spread is important.