Friday 30 October 2020

Social distancing app to make workplaces more Covid-19-secure

, September 21, 2020

With businesses under mounting pressure to demonstrate how they are making their workplaces socially-distanced and Covid-19-secure, UK-based technology startup Hack Partners has developed ‘Mind The Gap’ social-distancing app. After a successful pilot with Britain’s railway infrastructure owner Network Rail, the app is ready for industry-wide deployment, including the oil and gas sector.
Mind The Gap uses inaudible ultra-high frequency sounds and Bluetooth to calculate the distance between mobile phones. The technology does not require an active internet connection, making it ideal for use in various environments, outdoors and indoors. It also has the option to customise the distance that triggers the alert so it can be adapted for any change in government guidelines. 
Built with user-privacy in mind, Mind The Gap has no user-tracking in place: no sensitive data is collected, stored or shared. This means employers will not have the capability to monitor employees’ movement either past or present. 
Haydon Bartlett-Tasker, COO of Hack Partners, states: “We developed Mind The Gap initially to help railway staff maintain social distancing whilst at work. We quickly identified it could be opened up to other industries which - like the rail sector - face difficult challenges in safeguarding their employees that work across a variety of environments. With the economy reopening, businesses are under immense pressure to trade safely in this ‘new normal’. Having trialled this tool with Network Rail we are confident that we can help businesses overcome the challenge of keeping employees socially distanced.
River Tamoor Baig, CEO of Hack Partners, says: “Anyone who simply wants to help their staff stay safe and maintain social distancing making their workplace more Covid-19-secure, this app will help them achieve that goal.”
Hack Partners developed the app with Network Rail to help bring the company’s workforce safely back to offices and operational buildings. Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain’s railway infrastructure – 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges and viaducts, and thousands of signals and level crossings – as well as running 20 of Britain’s largest stations. The rail infrastructure owner was closely involved in the creation of the app and has successfully trialled it with a number of its employees and has now made it available for their 40,000 staff to use at their own discretion.
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s safety, technical, and engineering director, says: “I am immensely proud of our entire workforce for the part they have played to keep the country running throughout the pandemic. For thousands of our staff that has meant working from home, and many will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But as we start to plan for a return to office working, we’ve been looking at absolutely everything to make sure we can continue to keep our people safe, and Mind The Gap is an important part of that.
“It will sit alongside all the measures we’re putting in place – from deep cleaning, clear signage, staggered shifts and flexible working – and will really help remind people to keep their distance to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.” 
Network Rail rolled the app out to the company phones of a number of teams that have needed to return to an office environment, including those responsible for developing timetables in its Milton Keynes HQ, and workers in a Sussex maintenance depot. Feedback was collected from users to judge both how the technology worked, and how useful employees found it. 
Frobisher continues: “We want to be at the forefront of industry-leading tech, to work with innovative companies like Hack Partners, and we’re delighted to be part of the development and deployment of Mind the Gap. It certainly doesn’t replace other measures we have in place but it’s a helpful reminder of social distancing and we’ve had very positive feedback from our trial users. The app is now available to use at the discretion of our people who return to offices and operational buildings.”
River Tamoor Baig highlights that Mind The Gap’s underlying technology has proven to be so promising that discussions have now begun with contact tracing app developers who are struggling to get accurate distance results. –Tradearabia News Service


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