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3 minute read

Smith+Nephew partners with Tharsus on social distancing pilot

Advanced robotics company, Tharsus, has released positive preliminary results of a partnership with Smith+Nephew, the global medical technology business, to pilot its innovative Bump social-distancing system. Founded in Blyth and Hull respectively, the collaboration between two businesses in the North of England highlights the role technology can play in getting people back to work safely.

Launched by Tharsus at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bump is a cutting-edge system specifically designed to improve workplace safety and use anonymous employee data to inform effective social-distancing behaviour. Bump also helps businesses identify where employees are unable to effectively social distance in the workplace, empowering them to make decisions in real-time to reduce risk of Coronavirus transmission in a range of environments.

Medical technology manufacturer, Smith+Nephew has been using the Bump social distancing system / Picture: Smith+Nephew


The Bump technology comprises of wearable and static devices that use sophisticated Radio Frequency (RF) technology to create a Personal Motion System that immediately alerts wearers when they are getting too close to another person.

Taking place across several working environments at Smith+Nephew’s Hull facility – laboratories, the manufacturing floor, warehouses and offices – the pilot has provided data-led insights that have informed the company’s workplace configuration, as staff members adjust to working under Covid-safe conditions. After a month of observing employee behaviours and collecting anonymous wearer data, Smith+Nephew has implemented a number of changes to facilitate more effective social distancing across its site.

From wearers in laboratories re-positioning the layout of equipment, to adding an additional break area to avoid employee congestion in the warehouse, the insights generated by Bump have informed Smith+Nephew’s decision-making as it aims to ensure a safer workplace for employees and reduce the risk of Coronavirus transmission. Results indicate that the average interaction time between employees that accidently encroach the recommended distance is 0.8 seconds, showing that wearers are immediately reacting to the device’s warnings.

Tharsus hopes that Bump will enable businesses to continue to allow staff back into the physical work environment safely, improve decision-making, and minimise aerosol transmission. Trials are currently underway with a number of other partner organisations in addition to Smith+Nephew.

By analysing data accrued from Bump, Smith+Nephew has made a number of workplace configuration changes to prevent unnecessary congestion / Picture: Smith+Nephew


Tharsus is one of the UK’s smartest robotics companies and has a long track record of delivering progressive, robust and innovative technology solutions for companies such as DHL, Ocado, Rolls Royce, Automata and Small Robot Co.

Brian Palmer, chief executive officer of Tharsus, said: “Now that workplaces are opening up to employees, the onus will be on businesses to ensure they are calibrated in a way that reduces risk to staff. Many lockdown restrictions may have begun to ease, but social distancing remains one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is not always easy in closed environments.

“Business leaders have a responsibility for staff safety, which can be particulary difficult to manage for those co-ordinating multiple types of workspace. By working with partners like Smith+Nephew to trial Bump, not only do they benefit from data that can help them make better decisions on workplace configuration, but we receive feedback that allows us to further improve the system itself.

“The post-lockdown workplace will place new requirements on businesses; valuable trials like these can help them adapt by illuminating potential social distancing pitfalls and ensuring the appropriate changes can be made based on robust data.”

Mike Buckle, director – operations strategy & transformation, wound at Smith+Nephew, added: “The health and safety of our employees has been a priority throughout this crisis. The Bump system is proving its value in validating the measures we have put in place, helping us refine and improve in other areas, and giving employees direct real-time feedback to help them ensure they are safely social distancing.”

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