May 18, 2020 / 5:05 PM / 17 days ago

Chipmaker Dialog seeks to make Bluetooth coronavirus apps more accurate

Dialog semiconductor logo is pictured at a company building in Germering near Munich, Germany August 15, 2016. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle

OAKLAND, California (Reuters) - Chipmaker Dialog Semiconductor Plc on Monday introduced software to improve the accuracy of wristbands and other Bluetooth-based devices businesses are adopting to enforce social distancing and help trace those who were in contact with people who test positive for coronavirus infection.

Several companies including Ford Motor Co are beginning to have workers put on smartwatches, lanyards or devices that are outfitted with technology aimed at preventing further outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. Many of the systems use devices’ Bluetooth signals to estimate the distance between workers, and some of the gadgets show an alert when workers get too close.

Other devices connect to apps that log when two people spend considerable time near other, and authorities can use that data in deciding whom else to quarantine if a worker gets infected.

But Bluetooth signals are subject to interference and testing is now just under way on how reliable they are in estimating distance.

Dialog said its new “wireless ranging” code would attach special tones to signals and that its algorithms could process the new information to get a more accurate distance reading.

“My expectation and hope is that this may help to significantly slow or stop the spread of the virus,” said Sean McGrath, a senior vice president at Dialog.

The new software works with Dialog’s DA1469x family of Bluetooth low-energy chips, which is already installed in tens of millions of devices globally, mostly wearables such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.

The company had been aiming to launch the technology to improve the automatic unlocking of cars with Bluetooth, but saw an opportunity to push out the tech to help with coronavirus apps.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio

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