Warehouse computers manufacturer Zebra offers proximity alert for warehouse workers

The new feature sounds warning when devices come within 6 to 10 feet of each other

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The US-based barcode scanners and warehouse computers manufacture Zebra Technologies has introduced a feature that sounds an alert when employees breach physical distancing parameters over the novel coronavirus.

Warehouses and factories have been working to prevent outbreaks with comprehensive division procedures of workers than ever before, placing plastic shields around workstations and experimenting with smartwatches and other gadgets that sound to indicate people are too close.

However, this is the first time such functionality has been combined into the specialized devices that warehouse workers use on a daily basis.

Zebra’s notification works on a few models already fixed by its large retail, transport and manufacturing clients. The devices which cost hundreds of dollars each, transfer Bluetooth radio signals that are used to measure distance.

Clients also can decide to trace interactions of five minutes or more between workers, allowing speedy contact tracing to prioritize who should undergo virus testing if co-workers become ill.

The company commenced testing the new technology last month with 100 of the 200 workers at its Netherlands distribution center. The system declared about 80 distance alerts per day initially. But alerts fell to about 10 per day as workers modified and technicians fine-tuned software. Zebra devices usually attach to workers’ waist belts but also can sit on armbands or lanyards.

Signals are sounded when devices come within 6 to 10 feet of each other, and the tone repeats for longer intervals as people get closer or decline to back up. Some of the devices also vibrate as part of the warning.

“It’s a little bit more annoying than a notification tone. It’s not designed to be pleasant.”
Tom Bianculli, CTO – Zebra

Zebra Technologies which has thousands of customers is regarded by experts as one of the largest indoor location services vendors.