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Maker project to help social distancing efforts during COVID-19

15 May 2020

RS Components (RS) has joined forces with miniature PLC manufacturer BARTH Elektronik GmbH to develop a simple maker project that aids social distancing in the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The project, called ‘People Counter’, can be assembled in less than an hour and records the number of people entering and exiting a room, indicating when it is safe to allow more people to enter while still maintaining the recommended distance from others. This is particularly effective in retail environments where safe social distancing can be difficult to control.

Two photoelectric proximity sensors, or light barriers, detect the direction of movement, while a miniature PLC calculates the number of people in and out of the store in real time. A password-protected CAN touch screen is used to pre-set the maximum people limit and also serves as a ‘traffic light’ system, illuminating green when access is granted and red when access is denied. There is also an audio alert. The miniature PLC processes the data and controls the display.

The project design is very simple. All of the parts required are available to purchase from RS, and the full Bill of Materials, 3D data, software and manuals can be downloaded from the RS DesignSpark engineering website. A short video also gives instructions on how to build the system.

Daniel Barth, CEO of BARTH Elektronik, who devised this project, commented: “The idea came from the challenge that many businesses currently face when restricting the number of people in shops. Maintaining a reasonable maximum can reduce the likelihood of the virus spreading further through human contact. It was important to find a precise, contactless solution that could protect public health, while avoiding the costs associated with employing extra staff to monitor numbers manually.”

Mike Bray, VP of Innovation at RS, added: “This is a simple project that could have a huge, positive impact on the way retailers help protect customers from COVID-19 while they are out shopping. We would encourage any makers keen to help combat the virus to look at this project and consider how it could support businesses in their area, and then perhaps help those retailers to implement it. Makers really can make a difference.”

For full details of how to get started with the People Counter project visit: https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/people-counter-project-for-covid-19


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