COVID-19: Hands-free scanner now monitors distance

With production lines everywhere starting back up, ProGlove a maker of industrial wearables, has added proximity sensing capabilities to its hands-free barcode scanner. (Credit: ProGlove)

ProGlove’s MARK 2 hands-free scanner is used by industry icons like BMW, Audi, IKEA and Bosch to shave seconds on every scan. That’s a big deal when workers scan hundreds or thousands of barcodes every day.

Inspired after evaluating its own processes for safety and efficiency, ProGlove has now come up with a way to help workers maintain proper distance from each other.  The ProGlove Connect Proximity app for Android warns workers when they are in proximity with other workers. All that’s needed is a smartphone or tablet running Android version 6.0 or higher with support for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

Currently in a beta version, the app works by measuring the Bluetooth Low Energy signal strength on a smartphone or tablet to approximate the distance between another worker equipped with an Android device also running the app. The alerts come to the workers via a full array of options on the wearable scanner, including audio sound, optic LED light, and haptic vibration signals.

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As it is an app for Android that uses the wearable scanner to communicate with the person wearing it, no hardware modifications were needed. Hansen noted that while the app could also work without the glove, having it paired with the MARK scanner means that there is one less device for workers to add to their growing arsenal of wearables.  “And in a busy or noisy shop floor, where an Android alert on a phone in a pocket could be overlooked, a visible reminder on a glove worn on the wrist is valuable.”

“We tested the MARK upgrade in-house and it works beautifully. We’re now rolling it out on our own assembly line,” noted Konstantin Brunnbauer, VP of Production for ProGlove. “For my team it is easy to want to fall back into old patterns of working together but with this extra reminder, we can maintain safe distance.”

ProGlove Connect Proximity is the first phase of the company’s software initiative to help its customers manage safe social distancing in the workplace.

“In phase one of our software development road map we’re focused on creating a reminder for the workers themselves. It’s easy for us as humans, who may have been isolated from each other for several months, to want to return to our old work patterns as we return to work. An alert can remind people of the need to maintain a safe social distance,” said Hansen.

In Phase Two of the software development initiative, ProGlove plans to bring an aggregate view together to facilitate workflow adjustments to solve for bottlenecks in the floorplan for example. “Contact tracing is something our customers may want to consider there,” said Hansen. “But it isn’t something we’re proactively pursuing because our goal was to create a secure product which can be integrated unobtrusively with everyday workflows. 

The app upgrade is now available for at no cost to current ProGlove customers. Starting in June, the app will be available for new customers.

RELATED: COVID-19: A wearable warns when you’re less than six feet

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