The Carolina Panthers are getting a new piece of equipment in training camp this summer — contact tracing sensors. The tags are being worn to help players and also other members of the team know when they've been too close to each other by flagging red when it's time to social distance.
Other teams are also getting the sensors, reports WCNC in Charlotte, North Carolina, which are made by a company called Kinexon and called SafeZone. The sensors are tied to software, so that others can trace when someone has come in potential contact with a person infected with Covid-19.
The sensors themselves, called SafeTag, weighs just about .5 ounces, and can be slid into a watchband or on to a piece of clothing. Each one has a unique identifier so it can be traced — but it's not coded with the personal information of the player who is wearing it.
The Carolina Panthers are training at Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina Getty Images
Contact tracing apps, once thought to be the way communities would be able to open up again, have not really taken off in past months. That's the case even as two tech giants, Apple and Google, added code to their own mobile operating systems which enabled contact tracing apps to be built on their platform. But worries among consumers about privacy — would someone know that they personally had coronavirus — have hampered the roll-out especially in the U.S.
However, sports teams are taking a different approach. And while the sensors are not apps per se, they do offer the same features — the ability to follow someones movements, and then trace them back to see if they've encountered anyone who was diagnosed with Covid-19. Already, cases are popping up among sports franchises who have tried to bring games, including baseball, back to fans.
The UK's Premier League just managed to finish its football season at the end of this month, and hopes to start its next season on September 12th. But American sports franchises are just now trying to get up and running again after shutting down in early 2020 just as the coronavirus took hold in the US. But already there have ben serious setbacks, including the Miami Marlin's which decided at the last minute to cancel games this week after 18 players and coaches tested positive for Covid-19. That caused a cascading effect with teams that had earlier played the Marlins, having to cancel their own games.
The NFL is currently starting training for players with teams trying to get ready for a season that hopes to start September 10. But players are already choosing not to play this year, from Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams and defensive tackle John Atkins for the Detroit Lions. (ESPN is keeping a running list.)
At the Panthers training camp, the sensors are being tested to try and assure players and staff about their safety as they work out at Bank of America Stadium, in hopes for a fall football season.
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