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MTC partnership to help workplace social distancing

30 July, 2020

The Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre has partnered with advanced robotics manufacturer Tharsus to support the roll-out of cutting-edge wearable technology which will 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 on behalf of industry, to evaluate how Bump can be deployed now, and for manufacturing activities in the future.

In addition to manufacturing facilities, Bump can be rolled out in offices, warehouses, laboratories, and social workplace environments such as canteens throughout the UK.

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

Brian Palmer, CEO of Tharsus, said, “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 added: “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.

“We share the MTC’s vision to inspire great British manufacturing on a global stage and we look forward to see our work with them on Bump enable manufacturers to bring people back to work quickly and safely, and deliver this vision.”

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

“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.”

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

MTC engineers collaborated with Rolls-Royce and London hospitals to develop an intubation shield to protect frontline NHS workers carrying out ventilation procedures.

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