Semiconductor manufacturers are doing their best to combat COVID 19 situation whether it’s manufacturing of medical-grade devices or developing technology to detect and stop its spread. Social Distancing Detection has become live saving effort to avert spread of this virus but does merely developing technology solves the problem or do we need the holistic approach towards it.
STMicroelectronics came up with compact and cost-effective reference design that helps users to maintain safe distances and minimize the risk of contracting infectious diseases be used as it is or enhanced for a wide range of applications, including as bracelets and bands or as plugins
or add-ons to eyeglasses, helmets, and masks and shields making it widely deployable.
The reference design that not only helps to monitor Social Distancing but also assuring remote operation, provisioning, as well as warning, anti-tampering, and potentially providing contact tracing to protect human health in all environments, including in response to global or local
pandemic conditions. Electronics Media has an exclusive Q&A with Adriano Basile, Technical Marketing Manager, System Research and Application, STMICROELECTRONICS to understand the technology and other aspects of Social Distancing reference design.
Kindly brief about the Social-Distancing Reference design?
Adriano Basile: ST announced a new HW solution using the BlueNRG-Tile (STEVAL-BCN002V1B), which contains both a Bluetooth Low Energy Systems-on-Chip and inertial/environmental MEMS; the software development kit, which is only available direct from ST sales, supports physical distancing among people to fight against pandemic.
The reference design uses Bluetooth Low Energy channels to scan for other devices. It uses only beacons and doesn’t make any connections, to ensure privacy and security.
MEMS sensors are used to:
- enable power-down – saving battery life when no activity/movement is detected
- fine-tune any detected RF activity by compensating for board orientation, which may generate misleading results (i.e. people actually being closer or further away than “detected”), so MEMS are used to trim this value.
What is the most striking feature of this reference design?
Adriano Basile: The most impressive features of the reference design is efficiency (because of MEMS fine-tuning), configurability (set beacon rate, set MEMS threshold, the ability to use Sigfox technology for Cloud access), cost-effectiveness (single board, 2.5cm diameter, FCC- and IC-certified), and its privacy-protection (Bluetooth beacon only, so no connection and no need for a smartphone)
Which technology is the backbone of this design?
Adriano Basile: Bluetooth Low Energy beacons and MEMS, which combine to enable long battery life
What are the responses of ST partners about the reference design?
Adriano Basile: The ST Bluetooth reference design SDK is already being used by several customers and has generated a high level of interest among potential customers who have seen it.
Several members of the ST Partner Program have evaluated and adopted the reference design as a foundation for location-monitoring and contact-tracing platforms. These platforms provide a range of capabilities, including proximity alerts and contact recording, using the ST reference design packaged in compact, ultra-low-power tags.
Can you name any partner using this Reference design or has applied it?
Adriano Basile: At our announcement, ST published a blog post on blog.st.com highlighting one customer (INOCESS) using this solution: https://blog.st.com/nextent-tag/. We have additional customers who have started from this reference design but have not given us permission to disclose their names/efforts.
Is ST already working on this design or it’s the pandemic demand? Is this design only restricted to current pandemic usage?
ST had made the hardware platform available BEFORE pandemic: STEVAL-BCN002V1B. Two software dev kits were also available for this platform.
- STSW-BLUETILE-DK – enabling BLE and Sensors usage
- STSW-BNRG-Mesh – enabling Mesh over BLE
We introduced a 3rd software dev kit, which is the subject of this Press Release, for Social Distancing.
Where is this design available?
Adriano Basile: The Social Distancing reference design, including further technical detail on its operation, is available on ST.com and through local ST sales offices.