Combating COVID-19 with track-and-trace wearables

Tuesday, 22 September, 2020 | Supplied by: u-blox Singapore Pte Ltd

u-blox, a global provider of leading positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, has announced that its Bluetooth 5 modules are being built into wearable devices that are helping to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Available as either a wristband or a pendant, the TDS-50 has been developed by Florida’s Electronic Precepts to present a highly effective track-and-trace solution, with data being directly stored on the device then periodically sent to a web server. In addition, through the social distancing function that is also featured, wearers are given visual and vibrational alerts if another TDS-50 wearer comes within a 2 m distance of them for over 45 seconds. The device can be used anywhere, from schools to businesses or airport settings.

The TDS-50 units needed a compact form factor to make them comfortable for the user to wear. They also had to support ultralow power operation, with the ability to deliver passive scanning (for social distancing purposes) over a period of up to 240 hours. Consequently, the wireless communication module specified had to meet both of these key criteria fully. Given the immediacy of the COVID crisis, it was also crucial that the solution could be brought to market very rapidly — with the constituent RF electronics being quick and simple to incorporate into the design and having all the necessary standards approvals in place.

The u-blox ANNA-B112 proved to have all the attributes needed. With dimensions of just 6.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 mm, the space-saving, integrated and pre-approved system-in-package (SiP) is optimised for situations where a swift turnaround is mandated. It is based on Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 chip-level Bluetooth technology, with a 64 MHz Arm Cortex-M4 processing resource plus 512 KB of embedded flash memory. Supporting 1.4 Mbps data rates, it is suited to wearables applications and does not impact heavily on battery reserves.

“u-blox were able to satisfy all our expectations with the ANNA-B112 module, allowing us to bring our track-and-trace device to market within a very short timeframe, while also addressing the stringent space and power constraints that had been set,” said Electronic Precepts CEO Jeff Singer. “Over 10,000 TDS-50 units have already been shipped and demand is ramping up every day. We see huge potential for it in schools, businesses and theme parks, as well as within airport environments.”

“This collaboration with Electronic Precepts gives us a valuable opportunity to highlight all of the key elements that make u-blox technology so appealing to numerous industry sectors,” added Carl Bellanca, Head of Sales for u-blox Americas. “It underlines our ability to provide cutting-edge wireless solutions that have all the necessary processing and data storage capabilities, while also taking up minimal space and drawing only a relatively small amount of power.”

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