Bluetooth Technology to make physical distancing alerts

28 août 2020

Young people working on the web application called "Stop Covid" for the physical distancing. Photo : UNDP Benin / Fanny Damiano

To stop the spread of Covid-19 in Benin, a mobile application which makes sound alerts in French or any selected local language, in case of non-compliance with physical distancing will be used very soon, thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Accelerator Lab.

The physical distance of at least one meter between people is one of the main barrier measures recommended to stop the spread of Covid-19. But compliance with this measure is sometimes difficult, because in African culture and that of Benin in particular, populations are used to living in community with very close social relations : a tendency to go and greet the family, the sick, to eat together in the same dish, to participate in celebrations (marriage, baptism, etc.) or funeral ceremonies. In such a context, respect for physical distancing remains a challenge despite the sensitizations.

The UNDP Accelerator Lab collaborated with a Beninese start-up to develop a low-cost, inclusive solution that is accessible to everyone with a mobile phone. It is an application using the Bluetooth technology called “Stop Covid”, which includes separate modules. Indeed, via Bluetooth technology, it makes it possible to determine with precision if two or more individuals do not respect the physical distance measure (to stay at least 1 meter away from each other) and automatically generates alerts on their phones : via clear notifications (sound and sms) indicating to them the non-respect of this measure in languages of their choice.  

Thus, in case of non-compliance with physical distancing, the following audible alert is triggered on the mobile phone: “Attention! Please step back!”. The alert message is in French or local language until the person concerned distances himself. As soon as people find themselves at least one meter from another individual, the following voice message sounds: “Thank you, you are at a right distance!”.

This application is currently being tested by UNDP-Benin staff and a team from the National Division of Public Health in charge of the Covid-19 pandemic management.

In addition, the application is associated with a web platform accessible in a secure manner providing in real time the history of the individuals with whom a person has come into contact (remained within a meter). It is also equipped with a central engine which can provide data and, if necessary, the history of all the people likely to have been infected by a person tested positive for Covid-19, during a period. given because of not having respected the physical distancing.

The sound alerts work independently of the platform and the search engine which could be used for the identification and the tracing of the positive cases if the Government decides. All data collected by the application would, if necessary, be kept on a server by the Government.

As part of our support to the Government in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, the UNDP Accelerator Lab, in addition to the Bluetooth application for the physical distancing respect, is working on a disinfection boot equipped with an infrared thermometer and automatic washbasins interacting with people.