Covid in UAE: Students build device to remind wearer to maintain social distance

It will send a buzz or a beep sound that is audible to the person wearing the belt in order to act and step away


Sherouk Zakaria

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Photos supplied.
Photos supplied.

Published: Sat 5 Mar 2022, 1:33 PM

Two school students developed a sensor device to help users maintain social distancing in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Yahia Shadi and Omar Eldestawi, Grade 9 students at GEMS Al Khaleej International School, said the device, which can be worn as a belt, buzzes when an individual comes within a 2-meter distance.

“The ultrasonic sensor will detect the close distance. Thus, it will send a buzz or a beep sound that is audible to the person wearing the belt in order to act and step away. The sensor stops once the user is two meters away,” said Eldestawi.

Coded on python through the hardware Arduino, the students used an algorithm to detect a distance of two meters.

The distance can be modified on the sensor in accordance with the ease of Covid-19 restrictions in the UAE. “As the sensor is programmed on Python, we can change all variables anytime and it can be altered easily,” Shadi said.

Besides supporting people to follow the precautionary measures, Shadi noted the sensor belt is a form of self-care. “Everyone needs to be protected, in particular elderly and children who might be unaware of the distance between them and others.”

The sensor also helps people determine the right proximity. “Sometimes people get close to each other unintentionally, so the device helps them keep the proper distance needed to avoid Covid-19 infections.”

The device can prove to be beneficial for other people around the user as well. Eldestawi noted that by increasing the volume of the beeping sound, other people around the user will be notified to step out of the 2-meter zone. "For example, while standing in a queue in a supermarket or waiting for a bus or train, people will be alerted by the beeping sound if they come close to you,” said Eldestawi.

The belt can be readjusted for other purposes after the end of Covid-19, particularly for people with low immunity who prefer to maintain social distance.

“Parents can also strap the sensor to the stroller of their babies to be alerted if someone gets closer to their baby’s strollers,” noted Eldestawi.

The pair noted that the invention aims to support the UAE government’s efforts to mitigate the impact of Covid-19. “We thought that implementing precautionary measures might need more human-power to maintain that consistency all over the country,” said Shadi.

Through the engineering and design process, the pair reached their targeted goal of accuracy after several trials.

They participated in their school’s STEAM AKIS exhibition day and won first place with more than 3,000 votes.

For further accuracy, the students said six sensors can be added to the device to ensure wider area coverage.

"We made sure that the sensor can detect the widest angles at 60 degrees, which is why we need to apply up to six sensors in order to cover the whole area around the user,” said Eldestawi.

"The social distancing sensor will help the government in making this the responsibility of the whole community that can be achieved more easily."


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