Players in the NCAA Tournament to wear high-tech contact tracing devices


INDIANAPOLIS — Players in the NCAA tournament will be sporting some flashy new tech to monitor COVID contact tracing during the Big Dance.

It’s called SafeZone and is a creation from the company Kinexon. Pre-pandemic, their devices were used to monitor a player’s load management and could give health and fitness metrics to teams. It was being utilized by the NBA, NFL, and collegiate teams.

“When the pandemic hit, we looked at that device, and wanted to take it down to its simplest for,” details Kinexon North America Executive Vice President Jim Garofalo, “Instead of worrying where an athlete was on the court, how fast he was going, we focused on sensor-to-sensor communication to tell how close to another individual, or for how long, and when that interaction took place.”

The information is loaded into a database and can help teams contact trace players and staff members. Should a positive test arise, they will know who was in contact with that person, and for how long.

“You can ask me today if you and I talked, and then we forget about it right?” explains Garofalo, “Instead of having to shut down an entire organization because of one positive test, now you can be very specific and contact trace.”

The technology can be sewn into a jersey, worn on a lanyard, or around the wrist. If a player comes too close to another player, it can set off a social distancing alarm or blink red.

“We see it as a great tool to not only keep them safe during practice, but also take a look at what that game environment might look at as well,” says Garofalo.

Kinexon still suggests that teams, companies, or organizations go through contact tracing questions with anyone who tests positive. Even if they are wearing the SafeZone device, tracers will still want to know if the individuals were wearing masks or if they were indoors or outside.

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