Wearable Tech for Safer Events

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Wearable tech such as smart wrist bands can assist contact tracing.

Meeting planners are improving the safety of events with innovative wearable tech that assists social distancing and contact tracing while safeguarding sensitive data.

As the meetings and events industry begins to recover, buoyed by the widespread roll out of vaccinations, social distancing continues to be an important method for mitigating the risk of COVID transmission, especially for large scale gatherings. Meeting planners and event organizers are meeting the challenges with innovations such as wearable devices and contact tracing apps.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that event planners continue to utilize safety measures such as face masks and social distancing when bringing large groups together. In response, several companies have developed innovative technology to help event planners maintain the recommended safe distance between attendees, and to track potential infections and prevent further spread.

The Vital Circle platform combines web-based symptom tracking with wearable contact tracing devices and a range of health protocol options. The Vital Circle app provides event planners with data and analytics that help to identify and isolate COVID-19 risk early. Attendees are typically give the app two weeks prior to an event and asked to complete the first symptom tracking survey through its interface. They will then be asked to use the app to complete a health survey each morning during the event, and then continue to report any symptoms using the app at 5-, 10- and 21-days following the event.

If attendees meet the survey’s criteria they will be given a green check mark on the app, which could be exchanged for a wristband for entry by the event organizer. Those attendees who are experiencing symptoms or are unable to meet the health screening criteria can be isolated for further evaluation by a medical practitioner.

While at the event, attendees are given a small wearable proximity contact tracing device attached to their lanyard name badge. The device monitors the wearer’s distance from other attendees who are also wearing the devices, and records how long each device wearer has been in the physical proximity of other device wearers. In the event of an attendee reporting COVID-19 symptoms following the event, planners can rapidly identify which other attendees were in close contact with the person reporting symptoms and how long they were in their vicinity. Any attendees that were potentially at risk of exposure can then be contacted immediately and the outbreak can be swiftly contained.

The Vital Circle app is HIPAA compliant and ensures that sensitive data is protected. The contact tracing device does not connect to the attendee’s mobile phone in any way, and only detects proximity to other devices at the event, without monitoring the wearer’s GPS location or collecting any biometric data.

The Vital Circle app and contact tracing device were used as an example of industry best practice for large events at the IRF 2021 Education Invitational held at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort in June. The Vital Circle system was also successfully deployed at Prevue’s own Best Practices Summit, also hosted in June at Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Place.

Fleetwood Electronics have created a similar wearable product called Instant-Trace. It utilizes badges that can be worn on a lanyard, clipped to a collar or carried in a shirt pocket. The badges use Ultra-Wideband technology to measure distance between other badge wearers, which the company says is more accurate than devices that use Bluetooth. The Instant-Trace badges measure proximity to within 6″ of accuracy, while devices enabled by Bluetooth typically measure proximity within a range of 3-32 ft. The devices do not require charging, and have a battery life of over two months. The badges flash and vibrate when within a specified proximity of another badge, which has a default setting of 6 ft but can be set by the user. The system produces social distancing reports that can be used to proactively identify risk and make same day decisions on who should be tested and who needs to self-quarantine.

PC Nametag offers a wearable product called the Axis Social Distancing Wristband. This wearable has a matte black finish and is attached to an adjustable hypoallergenic silicone wristband. It is rechargeable using a USB cable and offers a full day of battery life. The device uses both Bluetooth and Ultra-Wideband technology to create a virtual perimeter around the wearer. If an attendee comes within 6 ft proximity of another wearer, the wrist band will alert the user with a red LED and vibration. If an attendee comes within 3 ft proximity of another user, it will alert with a red LED, vibration and an audible alarm. The Axis wrist band only monitors social distancing and alerts the wearer, and does not record any contact tracing data.

Accent Systems offers a contact tracing wristband that uses Bluetooth to detect other bands within a range of 6 ft. The wristbands vibrate when they come within 6 ft of another band and the system registers encrypted contact tracing data to anonymously track the contact chain of each band. The device has a rechargeable lithium battery with a lifetime of five days.

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