Convention Centre hosts Australian first trial of social distancing technology | The Canberra Times


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For the first time in months, a crowd gathered at Canberra’s convention centre last week as an Australian-first trial of social distancing technology kept everyone a safe distance apart. Social distancing is here to stay until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, and industries are looking to adapt to the new way of life. Guests at a tourism forum at the National Convention Centre Canberra last week were the first to trial a technology designed to keep people a safe distance from one another. The smart badge lanyards and wristbands worn by each guest beep, vibrate or flash if people are standing closer than 1.5m for a certain period of time. The idea came as an answer to the struggling events sector which was all but closed down in March when large gatherings were outlawed due to coronavirus. Developer Harry the Hirer typically kit out corporate clients with lighting and sound systems, marquees and seating but delved into the world of technology with the simple idea initially designed for the events sector. “Such a simple device, it gave people confidence there was a protocol in place that could help them maintain distance within a business meeting,” NSW state manager Paul Elliott said. The product, which will be rolled out next month, would be available to anyone and could have applications across many industries, Mr Elliott said. National Convention Centre Canberra general manager Stephen Wood said the venue would use the devices at future events. He expected technology that could eliminate human error in maintaining a social distance, collecting contact details and ensuring numbers in a room were safely capped, would be critical for the industry to recover. “As humans we’re not used to staying 1.5 metres away from each other. It’s probably a little bit further apart than we are used to being,” he said. “Having that device unobtrusively reminds you of when you’re breaching that distance.” The second wave of coronavirus which hit Victoria in recent weeks has led to the state breaking case records daily, with 428 new cases reported on Friday. COVID-19 also returned to the ACT in July and community transmission has been detected across the border in NSW due to an outbreak stemming from a pub in Sydney’s south-west. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Friday indoor hospitality venues would be subject to harsher restrictions including a limit to 10 people per booking. Ms Berejiklian said indoor activity where people were not seated was the “greatest threat” in spreading the disease. Corporate events and weddings are limited to a maximum of 150 people but must follow the one-person per four-square-metres rule. In the ACT, a maximum of 100 people are allowed to gather inside. Mr Wood said the rising case numbers had set the industry back again, after confidence had made a slow return. It was also an important reminder to businesses he said, to set up stringent hygiene and contract tracing measures. “We will need to see that get under control then have another sustained period of controlled reduction in transmission rates across Australia for us to get business confidence back to where we’re holding large meetings,” he said. Canberra Convention Bureau chief executive Michael Matthew said the technology would boost public confidence in attending gatherings. “It’s one thing to be allowed to attend an event, I think it’s really important to overtly show that you’re doing everything you can to help people manage their experience,” he said. “People do want to meet in person, webinars have been great but they are a poor substitute for the collaboration that can happen when you actually meet with somebody.” He said the ACT events industry was wholly reliant on domestic borders opening and flights taking off. “Without that it’s going to be very difficult for some of the hotels and the supply chain.”

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