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Wearable social distancing device to fight COVID-19

03 August 2020

Maggy, a Belgium-based start-up specialising in Bluetooth-enabled, rechargeable, social-distancing devices, has chosen a Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth System in Package (SiP) module to enable a new, compact wearable that warns users when the length between people becomes too small and could pose a risk of COVID-19 infection transfer.

“Given the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic, our mission was to develop an effective and affordable social-distancing device in an incredibly short period of time,” said Ruben Miessen, co-founder of Maggy. “Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth technology solution was a critical design element that streamlined our engineering and wireless development time. Their solution enabled us to focus on design simplicity and use cases, and ultimately accelerated our time-to-market.”

Maggy created the device as a safety measure for organisations seeking to help protect employees and visitors against COVID-19 in workplace settings, including industrial, logistical and pharmaceutical sites. Right out of the box, users can wear the Maggy as a lanyard or place it in their pocket and immediately sense vibrating and beeping if they become too physically close to another person with a Maggy. Additionally, Maggy’s profiled endpoint allows wearers to engage common machine buttons, like elevators or light switches, without coming in direct contact.

The high-performance accuracy of the Maggy devices are made possible by Silicon Labs’ BGM13S Bluetooth SiP Module, which works in combination with received signal strength indicator (RSSI) localisation technology and a proprietary algorithm developed by Maggy to filter out potential false measurements. 

Silicon Labs has developed the world's smallest Bluetooth System in Package (SiP) module, enabling IoT device makers to add Bluetooth to designs quickly while meeting all regulatory certifications. Silicon labs offers a range of SoCs, modules and software tools designed for ease of use.

"IoT wireless technology can play a critical role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matt Saunders, Vice President of IoT marketing and applications at Silicon Labs. “The Maggy device is a great example of an innovative yet cost-effective wearable IoT solution that easily helps enforce social distancing measures needed to prevent outbreaks. Silicon Labs offers the broadest portfolio of wireless IoT connectivity solutions in the industry, and our products are enabling much of the connectivity and experiences so many people have increasingly come to rely on daily during the ongoing pandemic.”

Privacy was a key part of the design process. Users are not required to register when using the device and no personally identifiable data is saved, thus meeting the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines. The device is based on Bluetooth 5.1 and achieves accuracy within 15 centimetres (5.9 inches) between two people. 

The Silicon Labs’ EFR32BG13 Series 1 Module powering the Maggy device is designed for Bluetooth Low Energy and Bluetooth mesh applications where ultra-small size, reliable high-performance RF, low-power consumption, full modular certification and easy application development are key requirements. 

The Maggy device received recognition as a top business continuity device for protecting employees during the European Commission’s 2020 EUvsVirus hackathon in April. It is currently in production, with 50,000 Maggy devices planned by the end of August, 2020. Production can be rapidly increased based on demand, and U.S. production discussions are underway. 

Infectious disease experts and global health agencies generally agree that social distancing is one of the most effective ways to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19.

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