SICK - How to practice physical distancing


In the wake of a global pandemic, a focus on keeping people safe and healthy has never been more important. Health professionals agree that two things that help spread viruses like COVID-19 are monitoring the number of people in one location and keeping a six-foot physical distance from others. In many settings, this is hard to accomplish and enforce using manual processes. Because of this, SICK has reacted to the new developments to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus with three different types of technology that helps people practice physical distancing in a manufacturing setting and also in public-facing spaces.

PeopleCounter – Monitoring Occupancy Levels

SICK is reacting to new developments to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus with its new PeopleCounter SensorApp. Using 3D LiDAR sensors from SICK, businesses can maintain recommended occupancy levels in public spaces by counting the number of people the enter and exit the space. Since the sensor solution does not process personal information, companies can ensure occupancy restrictions are being observed, but also that private individuals’ data privacy concerns are being respected. Operators of institutions of public life as well as those that deal in tourism, cruise ships, restaurants, retail, and various other industries can profit from a simple solution that makes it easy to keep the maximum utilization of space and still maintain the necessary distance between people in view.

While the PeopleCounter can be used in public-facing spaces, it is also applicable in manufacturing settings and in private businesses. It can be used to monitor the number of people entering a public space at a business, like a lunch room or even the building entrance. In a manufacturing and production setting, it can be used to monitor the number of people entering and exiting the space to ensure occupancy levels are maintained. 

The PeopleCounter is a SensorApp developed by SICK that enables anonymous data processing and differentiation of people from objects over large detection areas. Based on the hardware of the MRS1000 3D LiDAR sensor, measurement data is generated as a point cloud. The integrated PeopleCounter app reliably identifies people using their contours. This means only people are counted, while objects are blanked out. This process runs anonymously, without recording personal information.

Thanks to the four layers of the sensor, the direction of movement of a person is clearly established and the current utilization of a defined zone can be monitored. The recorded data is output digitally to keep track of the maximum number of people allowed in a space. The combination of several sensors makes it possible to cover even large areas with different entry and exit areas, such as shopping centers, airports, or trade shows.


DistanceGuard – Monitoring Physical Distancing

The DistanceGuard SensorApp, in combination with the TiM8xxP 2D LiDAR sensor, can detect the distance between two people. This is especially useful in environments in which the currently recommended minimum distances between people must be upheld, for example when waiting in line at a store. 

As soon as the distance between two people falls short of the configured minimum distance, a signal is generated. Depending on the customer’s wishes, this could be a light, a tone, or a visual signal


LiDAR and Track & Trace Technology - Reopening Your Plant Safely

One final technology that SICK has created benefits manufacturing, production, and material handling settings of many businesses. As many manufacturers begin to reopen plants across the country as lockdown measures begin ease, ensuring the safety of workers is critical. From appropriate personal protective equipment to maintaining physical distance from other employees, this is an unprecedented time with the pandemic and many manufacturers are not sure what steps to take to ensure the safety of workers in the time of Coronavirus.

There have been many different solutions proposed and implemented already. Due to COVID-19, it has become the new normal to conduct temperature checks of each employee, practice social distancing by ensuring employees stay six feet apart, and keeping track of cleaning efforts to sanitize stations more frequently. Some have even staggered shifts to avoid having too many people on the plant floor at one time. But many manufacturers are looking to technology for a more permanent solution. One such example is the use of wristbands that vibrate to alert a worker when someone is too close. This method may work, but it’s not incredibly reliable and doesn’t help with contact tracing.


SICK, Inc. has a method that can provide reliable detection of people to ensure physical distancing measures are continuing to be practiced and ensures that contact tracing can be accomplished. Using a combination of LiDAR and RFID-based track and trace technology, manufacturers can effectively detect people, products, parts, and more to ensure the safety of everyone within a plant. This technology enables people to effectively practice social distancing in a manufacturing facility while still operating efficiently.

LiDAR technology is commonly used on machines or mobile robots to protect people from harm. However, in this instance, LiDAR can be used to ensure people stay a safe distance apart from one another. By installing a sensor in each work station, it ensures a six-foot distance remains between people at all times. The LiDAR essentially creates virtual walls to form a threesided box around a workstation. Markings on the floor will indicate the exact location of the virtual walls so an employee knows when they may be breaching the barrier.


RFID tags can be implemented on workers’ hard hats to track where each worker is traveling throughout the facility. Each worker will wear a passive tag that can provide data to the manufacturer via an RFID reader. This is beneficial once a person is identified as a health risk. RFID tags on hard hats can help identify and track everywhere a person went in the facility and also who and what they were in contact with to conduct effective contact tracing.

The manufacturer can set each worker to an assigned zone where they are designated to work. If they enter into a zone where they are not authorized to work, the plant operator can be notified so they can take appropriate action. 


In addition, if a worker breaches a LiDAR barrier on an unauthorized workstation, the sensor will be notified and alert the RFID reader to scan. The employee in the workstation will also be alerted and can take appropriate action to maintain the needed physical distance. The RFID reader will collect data on each worker, which can include name, title, department, and time of scan.

These methods ensures the manufacturer can maintain cleanliness and sanitation standards. The RFID reader provides data on how many people were in each work station at a given time based on the number of scans by the RFID tags.

These methods are new to every manufacturer, but are quickly becoming the new normal as times continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing manufacturing environment we are currently experiencing.

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