Silicon Labs of Austin, Texas, will supply the Bluetooth module for a small wearable device called Maggy, designed by a Belgian startup, that beeps and vibrates when people aren’t social distancing and move closer than 6 feet.
Because the $47 device relies on Bluetooth instead of Ultra-Wide Band technology, it is at least half as costly than other social distancing tech on the market, according to Ruben Miessen, CEO of Maggy. “UWB devices are two to three times more expensive and don’t have the energy efficiency of Bluetooth,” he said in an interview with Fierce Electronics.
Maggy also has potential in coming weeks for secure and private contact tracing applications for smartphone users, he argued. Because the Maggy hardware device would be separate from a Bluetooth-linked smartphone and a special Maggy app, it would be possible to keep users who have COVID-19 anonymous and still inform other Maggy users via a cloud database that they were in contact with another person on a certain day and time who later was diagnosed with COVID-19.
While the device is fairly new, about 80 companies, some with global operations, have already contacted Maggy to deploy the device in industrial, logistics and pharmaceutical settings, Miessen said. Some European governments has also expressed interest because Maggy meets European Union General Data Protection Regulation guidelines.
So far, Maggy has ordered 75,000 of the BGM13S Bluetooth System in Package modules from Silicon Labs with 25,000 total Maggy units already produced in Europe and 25,000 more coming by September, Miessen said. Working with Silicon Labs streamlined engineering and wireless development time.
In a statement, Silicon Labs said production of Maggy devices can be increased rapidly. Discussions are underway to bring production of the Maggy devices to the U.S.
Maggy is a startup with 13 workers but part of a larger consortium known as Gumption with 500 workers. The contact tracing capabilities are already built into an upcoming Android app and an application has been submitted to Apple to create an iOS app.
Currently, each Maggy device can only be activated with a separate Maggy carried by another person, but the smartphone capabilities will be possible starting sometime in September, Miessen said. With two Maggy devices required for the social distancing capability to work, the cost for a business would be about $100. Bulk pricing will be lower with orders of 1,000 units or more. A dashboard service is available for enterprises to be able to track outbreaks of Covid among workers that have activated the smartphone app.
Maggy got its name from magnets, which are attracted to each other when a positive and a negative pole are aligned. “Magnets are just like people,” Miessen said. “They want to be close to each other which is why you need a warning when you are too close.”
The Maggy can be worn on a lanyard or placed in a pocket. The wearable can also be used as way for someone holding it to press machine buttons like those on elevators or light switches. Its battery must be recharged every three to five days with constant use.
Silicon Labs said the Bluetooth module is the world’s smallest and can be used in other IoT device applications. The Maggy is “a great example of an innovative yet cost-effective wearable IoT solution that easily helps enforce social distancing,” said Matt Saunders, vice president of IoT at Silcon Labs.
The module works with received signal strength indicator (RSSI) localization technology as well as a Maggy algorithm to filter out false measurements. Accuracy of the device is within 5.9 inches, which means a U.S. user with a 6-foot distancing recommendation will get an alert as much as 5.9 inches less or more than 6-feet from another person.
Without begin connected to a smartphone app, the Maggy will provide a warning anyway. Users are not required to register when using the device and no personally identifiable information is saved.
Once Maggy smartphone apps are available, Maggy can be used to initiate contact tracing. Annonymous data is saved in the AWS cloud and managed by Maggy. Companies and governments can completely opt out of the cloud storage feature, however, Miessen said. In the event a person with the Maggy device linked to a smartphone has been in contact with someone who has registered having COVID-19, then an alert is sent. The contact tracing only works if an infected person reports anonymously having the disease, however.