May 22, 2020

Bit: Prototyping a contactless future

As we come to terms with making social distancing the norm, researchers at Amsterdam Science Park are working on technologies that make the transition manageable. The team at Bit, a research and prototyping studio, are putting their minds towards products that revolutionise daily processes.

While coronavirus has created immeasurable roadblocks for many industries, it has created opportunities for others. Amsterdam’s leading innovators are taking it upon themselves to develop solutions to problems we’ve only known for the past weeks.

Marco van der Werf, One of the founders of Bit “Never been as busy as we are now ”

Demand for innovation

Marco van der Werf, one of the founders of Bit, admits that the team has “never been as busy as we are now”. Which is less surprising on learning of the types of projects they’re researching. Recent discoveries include automated cleaning, contactless payment and smart door handles that open automatically. His team of computer science, AI and design graduates are constantly looking to game-changing technologies. This seems like the ideal time for such projects to gain fresh relevance.

Keeping distance

Tracking social distancing is another realm with much scope for innovation. Bit sees potential for Bluetooth wearables such as bracelets and lanyards that indicate when another person gets too close. Samsung and Ford collaborated on bracelets that vibrate and light up with colour codes in almost real-time when employees were within a certain distance. Staff were able to track patterns and identify situations in which social distancing breaches could occur.

New ways of working

Experts advise that when more workplaces reopen, they’ll look different than they did before. Bit is currently prototyping a concept that smartly distributes employees throughout a space. Beacons will change colour to show people are spaced too closely in a meeting room, sitting at their desks or huddled around the coffee machine.

“There are a lot of questions around corona offices,” Marco points out. He mentions the balance between making people feel safe and protecting their privacy. While installing cameras raises questions, Bit has been exploring less intrusive ideas. “About a year ago we worked on a project where we taught wi-fi how to see people. Wi-fi signals will go through walls but not through water, and people are 80% water”.

There’s also potential to map out one-way walking routes to keep a safe distance. New technologies can also assist HR managers with roster management. AI developments make it possible to build schedules that fit changing capacity for staff. This is particularly important for companies that are faced with fluctuating output.

Beyond the pandemic

Future-focused thinkers like those at Bit are helping to implement positive change amid a pandemic. Their thoughtful solutions to contactless workplaces, tracking human activity and high-tech devices mean that more companies can get back to work sooner – while using less hand sanitiser in the process.

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