Wireless wearable beacon provides accurate contact tracing solution for crowded environments such as sports grounds


Omni-ID’s Sense Shield employs Nordic nRF52832 SoC with third party software for accurate personnel tracking using real time location system and mesh networking 

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that New York, NY-based intelligent tracking and monitoring solutions company, Omni-ID, has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for its ‘Sense Shield’ social distancing and contact tracing solution. Sense Shield incorporates Espoo, Finland-based Quuppa’s ‘Intelligent Locating System™’, a real-time location system (RTLS), and Tampere, Finland-based, Wirepas’ ‘Wirepas Mesh’, proprietary RF protocol firmware for short-range wireless mesh networking. 

Developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sense Shield is a wireless wearable beacon—available in a lanyard, belt clip, or watch strap form factor—designed for deployment in any environment where large groups of people gather including sports venues, hospitals, construction sites, warehouses, and even cruise ships. The solution monitors and records the movements of the wearer which in turn enables social distancing management and contact tracing. The systems allows individuals, such as employees at a workplace or attendees at a sports event, to be tracked with a positioning accuracy of less than one meter. 

Direction finding support

To achieve this functionality, the nRF52832 SoC used in the Sense Shield supports Quuppa’s proprietary RTLS firmware. Quuppa’s ‘positioning engine’ enables the Sense Shield ‘tags’ to be positionally tracked referenced to strategically-placed Quuppa ‘locators’ in known fixed positions. 

The nRF52832’s favorable power consumption was another compelling reason to use the Nordic chip
Matt Behroozi, Omni-ID

In addition, each Sense Shield forms part of a wireless mesh network enabled by the nRF52832 SoC’s Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) radio and ‘Wirepas Mesh’, proprietary RF protocol firmware for short-range wireless mesh networking. The SoC’s support of Wirepas Mesh enables wireless transmission of each wearers’ location and movements across the mesh network to a Cloud-connected gateway. The aggregated data can then be used to determine, for example, if there are too many spectators in one area, or if spectators are not in their allocated seats. The data can also be used for contact tracing purposes if a subsequent infection outbreak is detected.

In September 2020, the Omni-ID Sense Shield platform was used as a key part of a U.K. government-endorsed trial examining possible ways for spectators to safely return to sports venues during the Covid-19 pandemic. The trial took place at The Kia Oval—a large and world-renowned cricket ground in London—and included 2,000 spectators who were each given a Sense Shield wearable device.  

Excellent power consumption

Sense Shield uses a replaceable CR2032 225mAh battery to provide battery life of approximately six months under conditions where the device is moving 10 hours/day (at a 3Hz reporting rate) and is stationary 14 hours/day (0.1Hz beacon rate), thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic SoC. The nRF52832 SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs. 

The nRF52832 SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex™ M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU) with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5.2, ANT™, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) featuring -96dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory and 64kB RAM.

“The primary reason for selecting Nordic’s nRF52832 for the Sense Shield was the flexibility to provide three different product options from a single hardware platform – a capability made possible by the SoC’s Bluetooth LE radio together with native support for Quuppa and Wirepas Mesh technologies,” says Matt Behroozi, IoT Product Manager, Omni-ID. 

“Battery life is a very important element to the solution and the nRF52832’s favorable power consumption was another compelling reason to use the Nordic chip. The development support and responsiveness provided by Nordic was also an important factor in our decision.”