Smartphone Free IoT Contact Tracing

In April free access to the IoT Scotland network was announced for anyone responding to the unique challenges raised by COVID-19. The third article in our series explores applications that will help us to get safely back to work and protect vulnerable individuals on an ongoing basis.

Stay Alert
On 10th May the UK Government changed its coronavirus message from “stay at home” to “stay alert”, with a conditional plan for the phased reopening of schools, shops, and some hospitality businesses and public places. There was also a directive for those unable to work at home to return to the workplace, in sectors such as construction and manufacturing. Though the Scottish Government is not mandating the same changes, it’s clear we need to start preparing for the new normal when restrictions are eased such that people will once again be mixing in public and in the work environment. Social distancing will continue to be critical, and employers will have a responsibility to protect their employees as well as to demonstrate their compliance with the guidance on keeping people two metres apart.

Test, Track and Trace
Contact tracing is a fundamental part of controlling any public health outbreak. The idea is to identify those who have been in close proximity to a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus, (or who has reported symptoms), during the time they may have been infectious, then contacting them with advice to monitor their health and minimise the risk of further transmission.

Several contact tracing apps have been discussed in the media recently, aiming to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Perhaps most notably, the NHSX app is currently being tested on the Isle of Wight. It relies on Bluetooth technology to record when app users are close to each other, with data then stored in case a user later develops the virus. However only 40% of the island’s residents have installed the app – well below the 60% required for it to be effective.

A recent poll for the Observer suggested that just 52% of British people interviewed would download a contact tracing smartphone app. There are widespread concerns about privacy, phone battery consumption, and of course not everyone owns a smartphone or carries it with them all the time. In a work context, several environments don’t lend themselves to using smart devices for contact tracing, such as construction sites, factories, offshore, or in schools. People may be prohibited from using phones or may not wish to use their personal devices at work.

LoRaWAN Contact Tracing
Kerlink, our IoT Scotland infrastructure partners, have teamed up with Microshare to create a Universal Contact Tracing solution which does not rely on smartphones but instead on low power, long-range LoRaWAN connectivity. Users are issued with simple and inexpensive Bluetooth enabled badges, keyrings, or wristbands each with a unique ID. Devices scan and record each other’s ID through an encrypted code when they are in close proximity and regularly upload these “encounters” to a central, secure database. This provides the same contact tracing ability as the smartphone solution but with potentially lower cost and higher reliability. Find out more 

Apply for free of charge access to IoT Scotland
If you are a potential end-user of IoT applications or a developer or provider of IoT hardware and solutions, then we want to hear from you.

To apply for free of charge access to IoT Scotland for a contact tracing project, or any other COVID-19 related application, complete our online application