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Wearables innovator taps Twilio IoT to prevent COVID-19 with Safeteams

Twilio’s developer-first approach enabled PixMob to quickly build and deploy a wearable contact tracing solution

The Results
contact tracing wearables deployed within 3 months
weeks to market with a cellular-connected IoT solution
COVID-19 infections prevented from spreading

Not so long ago, the term “essential worker” was unfamiliar. People like nurses, grocery clerks, and food servers were just doing their jobs. However, since COVID-19 began, these workers comprising more than a third of our workforce, are hailed and recognized as heroes.

While the rest of us safely shelter in place and stay six feet apart, essential workers are in close quarters with each other and the general public, creating a situation where the virus can spread exponentially. With such high risk of COVID-19 exposure, contact tracing allows employers to isolate workers and spaces exposed to an infected person, thus helping to reduce the spread of the virus. Successful contact tracing requires the right technology, and PixMob’s tech stack is a natural fit.

From the NFL Super Bowl to contact tracing

PixMob has been pioneering smart wearables for live events since 2010. Prior to the pandemic, organizers of in-person events looked for ways to enrich the experience for attendees. PixMob’s smart wearable devices expanded an attendee’s world through digital interactions. Through their technology, attendees can “click” badges to instantly exchange contact information with another conference attendee using PixMob’s Klik product; or have their connected wristband light up to the beat of a Jennifer Lopez song at the NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show.

PixMob has powered these types of seamless interactions for renowned clients like Taylor Swift, the NFL, and the Olympic Games, using wearable technology to give attendees unforgettable experiences at in-person events.

Shifting to deploy wearable technology in new ways during the pandemic

With the onset of COVID-19, PixMob shifted their entire business plan for 2020, anticipating a halt in revenue from in-person events. Now, together with their Klik product, PixMob’s wearable technology is helping businesses increase essential worker safety during the pandemic. Called Safeteams, PixMob’s latest wearable system uses a combination of cellular-powered hubs and new wearable badge clips.

Newly developed software algorithms enable social distancing and make recommendations to rapidly identify all employees and areas that have been in contact with an employee who may have tested positive for COVID-19. Because interactions are automatically tracked, it’s no longer necessary to depend on cumbersome contact tracing methods such as interviewing diagnosed people on pen and paper. This solves two of the biggest challenges of manual contact tracing—accuracy and time consumption.

“We looked at the concept of contact tracing and applied it to a business setting, like a factory,” says Safeteams Head of Product, Charles Truong. “We wanted to help businesses stay open safely, and to understand how to plan their clusters of employees as well as physical environments. If someone tests positive for COVID-19, you don’t have to send everyone home or close the entire factory. Through wearables, you know which part of the factory to decontaminate. You can help those who were in contact with the affected person quarantine and get tested.”

Launching Safeteams in less than a month

Spinning out an entirely new IoT company meant that Safeteams needed a connectivity partner that would allow them to test new products and features at lightning speed. They needed to get their hands on hundreds of SIM cards within days, as well as the ability to get started without committing to a connectivity contract.

“Thanks to Twilio’s developer-first approach, we had exactly what we needed to deploy Safeteams within three weeks,” said Truong.

Innovating that fast doesn’t stop at procurement and logistics. Being able to make IoT-powered solutions quickly also requires access to high-quality developer resources. However, most connectivity providers are not known for API documentation, which leaves IoT builders scrambling to build their own tools and delays time-to-market. For Safeteams, these hurdles were a nonstarter during a pandemic when you’re trying to respond to a vastly changed market.

Simplifying IoT-powered contact tracing

Twilio IoT helped PixMob pivot to Safestreams by providing SIM cards within 2 days of ordering, offering simple pay-as-you-go pricing, and enabling access to high quality developer tools. Like PixMob’s other products, Safeteams uses Twilio to enable their cellular-connected hub to connect to wearable employee badge clips online.

“We aren’t held back by limitations with traditional connectivity providers. We relied on Twilio IoT to deploy 10,000 contact tracing wearables within three months across three continents,” Truong explains. “We can simply send out as many hubs as we need, and all our customers have to do is plug them into power. Using Twilio’s connectivity APIs, we can control contact-tracing hubs remotely from our headquarters in Montreal.”

Rather being slowed down by negotiations with different connectivity providers in individual countries, Safeteams relies on the no-shenanigans mantra of Twilio’s IoT pricing.

To further streamline their productivity, Safeteams used Twilio’s Console for self-serve SIM fulfillment. This meant they could have hundreds of SIMs shipped to their manufacturer within two days, allowing them to scale up as demand for their contact tracing solution grew.

Stopping COVID-19 spread with IoT

The importance of getting a fast time-to-impact is evident in the results that Safeteams saw with their solutions.

“Four COVID-19 infections have been stopped in their tracks across various customer facilities where the solution is currently deployed,” said Truong. “This prevented the virus from spreading exponentially throughout the workforce.”

The fast-moving COVID-19 environment has driven the need for companies like PixMob to pivot and move extremely fast. “With Twilio, we were able to spin out an entirely new company in a matter of weeks. We went from having our business at a standstill to solving a very important problem – keeping essential workers safe and keeping businesses running,” said Truong. “For now, we’re focused on contact tracing, but knowing we can count on Twilio IoT gives us the confidence we need to feel ready for transitioning back to serving in-person events.”

Thanks to Twilio's developer-first approach, we had exactly what we needed to deploy Safeteams within three weeks.

Charles Truong, Head of Product, Safeteams by PixMob