Ford’s Plan to Reopen? Buzzing Wristbands to Keep People Separated.

The automaker is testing new wearable tech in a Michigan factory

Two automakers at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant
If you get within six feet of a coworker, Ford's social-distance wristbands will buzz.
Sam VarnHagen via Ford

That buzz you just felt? It’s not a text or tweet. It’s your social distancing wristband telling you that another human is too close.

Does that sound like a helpful tool or a human shock collar? Whichever way you see it, the new technology is already being tested at Ford Motor Company in hopes of finding a way to reopen factories sooner rather than later. If it’s successful, other industries may adopt similar protocols.

“The small group of volunteers at a Ford factory in Plymouth, Michigan, are trying out wristbands that vibrate when employees come within six feet of each another, said Kelli Felker, a company spokeswoman,” as reported by Bloomberg. “The aim is to keep workers from breaching the distance that health experts recommend to avoid spreading the coronavirus.”

As it stands, Ford has stopped producing vehicles indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of its factory workers are currently producing ventilators and other necessary medical equipment for hospitals experiencing shortages. But the automaker wants to restart car production as soon as possible. To do that, the wristbands aren’t the only safety measure they’re implementing. 

As Bloomberg noted, new safety protocols could affect every moment of a worker’s day, including thermal-imaging scans on arrival to check for fever, wearing face masks and shields all day, and filling out surveys after a shift to record their health and anyone they came into contact with. 

The wristbands themselves still have to undergo further tests before they’re implemented across the company, but if the trial is successful, you may be looking at the hottest new wearable of 2020.

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