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Lakeshore company creates employee badge for contact tracing during COVID-19 pandemic

Instant-Trace will be available to ship in mid-May, according to the company's CEO.

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. - As businesses look to keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lakeshore company is rolling out a device to assist in contract tracing and improvements in social distancing practices. 

"We were sitting around as a leadership team trying to figure out what we are going to do in case there was a confirmed case on site," said Jason Grant, CEO of Fleetwood Group in Holland Township. "Our electronics team...came back and said, 'I think we can solve this.'"

The company manufactures furniture and electronics at a facility on James Street. Over several weeks, the Fleetwood team built the Instant-Trace badge. 

The device contains wireless sensing technology. It tracks an employee's proximity to another and collects data when two badges are inside six feet of each other for longer than a minute.

"The badge does not track the location of employees," Grant said. "If you're wearing a badge, and I approached you, your badge would flash red...and mine would do the same thing. It would be a cue to both of us that we need to be aware of our environments and may need to change our behavior."

When employees leave work, they scan the QR-code of the badge, and the data is stored in a protected cloud service. 

"It's an easy thing that employers and companies can do to keep one another safe, but also to ensure that if there is a case on site, you're able to very quickly respond to it and get the business back up and operating as soon as possible," Grant said. 

The Instant-Trace has a battery life of at least two months. The contact tracing data is available over 14 days. 

The technology is fully-vetted, and the devices will be ready to ship to other companies in mid-May, Grant said. 

"The demand has really been overwhelming," he said. "We have a bunch of orders. We've got small companies [and] large companies, plants with 3,000-5,000 employees that have placed orders for a beta test."

The badges are $99 each and are sold in packs of 50. The Instant-Trace App is provided for free, and the cloud service is free for 18 months. 

The badge wasn't built to make money, but to keep employees safe, Grant said.

"Until there's a vaccine that's available, companies are going to need to operate with a lot of these social distancing principles and other practices in place," he said. "Instant-Trace is just one thing companies can have in their COVID-19 toolkit."

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