It’s only an experiment for now but the technology could be used more widely if it works.
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Ford factory workers in the US will wear buzzing wristbands to help maintain social distancing, the Bloomberg news agency has reported.

Initially, only 12 workers will take part in the experiment wearing the ‘watch-like’ or ‘fitness-like’ wristbands.

The devices are supposed to vibrate when employees come within six feet (about 1.8 metres) of each other, a Ford spokesperson told the news agency.

Ford says if the experiment proves successful and the technology is effective, the devices could be used more widely once it recommences production on its US assembly lines after a six-week shutdown.

It is unclear at this stage if the technology has been offered to other companies or could eventually become available to members of the public.

“The aim is to keep workers from breaching the distance that health experts recommend to avoid spreading the coronavirus,” Bloomberg reported.

Ford is also likely to subject factory workers to a thermal-imaging scan to detect a fever, a practice rolled out at other production facilities around the world, not only in the car industry.

The report said Ford will also provide staff with masks and, in some cases, plastic face shields.

A statement issued to Bloomberg by a Ford spokesperson said: “Ford and the (United Auto Workers Union) are working closely to identify different ways to keep our people safe while they are at work.”

The buzzing wristbands are made by South Korean tech giant Samsung, the report said, using ‘near-field’ software made by Radiant RFID.

The devices use “Bluetooth short-wave and low-power technology to detect proximity and clustering of workers”, the report said.

Workers will receive a vibration and a colour-coded warning on the watch to let them know when they are closer than six feet (1.8 metres) to another person.

“Supervisors also receive alerts and reports that can be used to monitor social distancing and clustering in the workplace,” Bloomberg reported.

In the meantime, as General Motors is about to ramp up full scale production of medical ventilators at one of its decommissioned plants, Ford is expanding its efforts to produce more than 3 million face shields, tens of thousands of reusable hospital gowns (using airbag material), and thousands of powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), pictured above.

“We knew that to play our part helping combat coronavirus, we had to go like hell and join forces with experts like 3M to expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies,” said Jim Baumbick, vice president, Ford Enterprise Product Line Management, in a prepared media statement.

“In just three weeks under Project Apollo, we’ve unleashed our world-class manufacturing, purchasing and design talent to get scrappy and start making personal protection equipment and help increase the availability and production of ventilators.”