The army has successfully tested a new Covid-19 tracing system, partly developed by a Cork company, which could have huge international potential for 'close contact' companies such as pharmaceuticals, warehousing, and meat processing plants.
Cork software company Digisoft teamed up with UK-based Accesso Technology Group to develop a smart 'Proximity Band' which keeps a record of a person's movements and the contacts they have.
The wrist-worn device has been trialled by members of the Defence Forces during mandatory two-week Covid-19 isolation prior to deploying on overseas peacekeeping missions.
The device issues a yellow flashing warning and vibration when somebody is within the recommended 2m distance of another person for more than two minutes. It issues a red warning after 15 minutes — a time limit when health professionals consider Covid-19 transmission is likely from a virus-carrier.
Information is stored in a central cloud system in order to trace contacts and distinguish between who is at risk and who is not if a case of Covid-19 is identified in a colleague.
The technology was developed by Digisoft from Accesso's wristbands, which were initially designed to provide people with exact times to use attractions in leisure and theme parks. The bands also open and close lockers.
The new device was initially trialled with an officer cadet class in The Curragh, who are assisting the HSE in fighting Covid-19 as contact tracers.
It was subsequently rolled out to soldiers undergoing pre-overseas deployment isolation in Kilworth Camp, Co Cork, and Coolmoney Camp, Co Wicklow. Some were recently flown to Syria and others are about to go to Lebanon.
“The goal is to ensure that as a group, we are as close to risk free from Covid-19 as possible as we enter the [overseas] mission area and are fully operational to carry out our peacekeeping duties on arrival,” said Lieutenant Bryan Dwyer who is about to deploy to Lebanon.
“For the individual user, our soldiers, it provides useful feedback including behaviour modification as well as updates on the number of close contacts made during the period of isolation,” he said.
Brigadier General Brian Cleary, who has previously commanded the Defence Forces Joint Task Force on Covid-19, said the data from the devices offered risk mitigation techniques as well as avoiding knee-jerk over-reactions to positive Covid-19 cases.
“In assisting to trial this technology, we are assisting with innovation, providing a test bed, and trying all avenues to mitigate risk,” he said.