Amazon will open source new Distance Assistant for 6-foot distance reminder

Amazon's Distance Assistant uses AI and depth sensors to detect 6-foot distancing with the results displayed on nearby monitors so workers can see if they are in the red (too close) or the green. Amazon plans to offer the software free as open source. (Amazon)

Amazon will open source for free its Distance Assistant software and AI to allow other companies to remind workers and visitors to stay 6 feet apart in hopes of reducing the spread of COVID-19.

The system is just one of many emerging from startups and big tech companies to keep people apart in high traffic areas found construction job sites, at building elevator lobbies and gathering areas outside of auditoriums and classrooms.

The Amazon innovation is already deployed in a few of its buildings with a 50-inch monitor, a camera and a local computer at many high traffic locations using machine learning models to tell the difference between people and surroundings, the company said Tuesday.

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Depth sensors in Distance Assistant help determine an accurate measurement between people, with the results displayed on the monitors so that people can correct their own distance.  If workers are 6 feet or greater apart, a ring of green around each person appears on the screen, which turns red if they get closer than 6 feet. The data could also help companies design tactics to lower traffic in certain areas.

The concept was inspired by radar speed check signs, Amazon said.  Distance Assistant uses a self-contained device requiring only a standard electrical outlet that can be deployed at building entrances and high visibility areas.  Amazon did not say when the free open source software will be available.

Other tech approaches

Also on Tuesday, edge AI software designer FogHorn announced a package of products using streaming video analytics to spot social distancing and other health measures in industrial and commercial settings. The AI and related tech can be used to detect if workers are wearing masks, to monitor temperatures and other behaviors.

Sunnyvale, California-based FogHorn said its new Lightning Health and Safety Solutions product will generate alerts when policy violations occur or unsafe health conditions are detected. Audio streams and video and thermal cameras collect the information which is sent to Lightning, which publishes real-time SMS or email alerts which can be shown on a dashboard at building entry points, near production lines and on management consoles accessed via any web browser.  Pricing was not disclosed.

Another technology for social distancing was introduced Monday by London-based Equivital called eqWave. It is a wearable device that uses Bluetooth and UWB radio to detect other devices and measure the distance.  When workers get too close, the device emits a bright LED flash and haptic vibration.

Equivital called the eqWave “cost effective” at $76 each when purchased in multiples of 10.  A spokeswoman said Equivital has begun shipping the product to leading global contruction and engineering companies. 

The eqWave approach is different from some other wearable solutions because it has data capture that can enable contract tracing, she said.

In another example, Tsingoal  uses LocalSense wireless pulse technology with micro-base stations located in factory areas.

RELATED: Qualcomm moved IoT to smart building access with temp scanners

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