US Navy Readies Personnel-Tracking-Wearables To Ensure COVID Social-Distancing

As the COVID-19 pandemic reemerges, a deluge of proximity tracking apps, services, and systems for contact tracing are being developed and deployed in the commercial world. Interest has also surged within the military, now considering tracing technology to mitigate the spread of the virus among servicemen and women. 

The Naval COVID Rapid Response Team recently posted a contract opportunity on the System for Award Management's (SAM) website earlier this month for wearable devices to track sailors' movements. 

The request asks private businesses for existing commercial or advanced prototype technologies of "proximity tracking" devices that can be worn on sailors to monitor if they come within 10 feet of someone else. The service outlines the proximity tracking program should include at least two elements:

  • sets of wearable proximity tracking devices "wearables" and
  • a storage and processing device "station(s)".  There may be additional intermediate devices to transfer the information from the wearable to the stations. The storage and processing device can be a local, standalone server or laptop, or other computer. Additionally, a Cloud solution is desired that would replicate the functionality of the local, standalone device.

Each device is expected to detect another device and will record four pieces of critical information that the Navy can use to determine if a virus-infected sailor came in contact with others.

  • unique identifier of the wearer's device,
  • the unique identifier of the device that is in close proximity,
  • the estimated distance or a measurement that is used to estimate distance, and
  • the date/time of the measurement.

"These four pieces of information are then used to calculate the total time and at what distance two individuals with the wearables have been in close contact," the request states. 

The Navy is expected to move fast on implementation as virus cases surge, which is a move the service hopes it can prevent another mishap like what happened several months back when10% of the USS Theodore Roosevelt's 4,865-person crew tested positive for the virus.