This wearable device beeps when workers get too close to each other
It's a device that emits a high-pitched beep, buzzes and lights up if your coworker steps too close.
While some introverts would have bought this device before the pandemic to stave off chatty colleagues near the coffee machine, ZeroKey designed the product with a more important purpose — helping employees physically distance to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The Calgary tech company's "Safe Space" device looks like a small plastic badge that can be worn on a wrist or clipped to a shirt pocket or belt.
"Our products, in a nutshell, localize or figure out where things are in 3D space and our big claim to fame is we do it very precisely, more precisely than anyone else in the world," said Matt Lowe, co-founder and CEO of ZeroKey.
The company says its location-tracking technology passively monitors the distance between each device and is accurate down to 1.5 millimetres. The distance on devices can be set — so if, say, science determines three metres apart is actually safer that two, that can be tweaked.
Lowe says the company came from humble beginnings — he and a co-founder, working out of a room in his house. The company has grown from two to 30 employees and has more openings it's looking to fill.
Inspired by sci-fi
Their inspiration comes, as so many technological innovations have, from sci-fi.
Lowe recalls watching Minority Report, and being transfixed with the gesture-based user interface Tom Cruise's character operates.
"Wouldn't it be awesome if we had an interface that was more in tune with how humans operate naturally with their hands. So if you could just walk up to a new piece of technology ... and just immediately be proficient," he said.
But applying that tech to the COVID-19 era wasn't something the company had anticipated.
Lowe said some of the company's clients in the manufacturing industry approached ZeroKey with a request.
"They came to us and said, 'hey … we have the data where people are, can you build some sort of system so that we can do contact tracing and we can let people know if they're closer than two metres?' And we said, 'absolutely … that's easier than what we normally do,'" he said.