STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA) -- Contact tracing at a small business, with say, 10 or 12 employees, could be a daunting task. Even more so at a manufacturing plant where tens of thousands of people come and go every day. East Mississippi Community College's Communiversity and the athletic engineering program at Mississippi State are trying to help businesses tackle that problem with technology usually designed to measure the performance of a bulldog athlete.
Normally, Men's Basketball Strength and Conditioning Coach Collin Crane uses sports wearable technology to make sure his athletes are at their peak performance.
"We're using accelerometers, we're using heart rate technology, we're using timing gates, and we're doing our best to evolve with the technology," Crane said.
Evolving technology takes on a new meaning during the coronavirus pandemic. When Coach Crane's team tests players mobility normally they'd have the player lay on the table. That's when the trainers would examine the players by physically stretching them out. With the help of Xbox Kinect, they can map the athlete s entire body and diagnose the issue from a distance.
MSU athletic engineers gather all the data. Reuben Burch is the head of the athletic engineering program at MSU. He and his team of students are spearheading the effort to use sports wearable technology in the industrial setting, like at a factory or warehouse.
"When COVID hit you're either solving the virus or trying become as important as the virus," Burch said. "We started to branch out and work with the industrial athlete, because if we can solve it for the sports athlete, then we can solve it for the military athlete or the industrial athlete."
Burch and his team turned to the EMCC Communiversity in Columbus. The Communiversity specializes in placing students in manufacturing jobs. Burch, with the help of Communiversity President Dr. Courtney Taylor is applying for a scientific research grant to begin testing sports wearable technology in the industrial setting. Right now, contact tracing could take weeks and by that time it could be too late. Birch is confident that properly implementing wearables will shorten the time it takes to identify at-risk workers when a company has a positive case.
"We do need to know who they came into contact with, where they were physically," Burch said. "These wearables that we use at Mississippi State, they already do those things, so we can just re-purpose them and send them out."
Burch said that European companies are already using the wearable technology and Amazon is currently researching uses in their facilities in the U.S.