More accurate solutions for wireless distance measurement

BLE devices and accompanying software from Dialog Semiconductor were also presented, offering a more accurate solution for implementing the accurate distance measurement functionality required for contact tracing.


Wireless distance measurement can be a key factor in facilitating automated contact tracing and can help identify and analyze outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 that are transmitted through close contact. Conventional distance measurement methods using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology may theoretically provide accurate data, but in practice limitations of radio frequency (RF) transmission may affect accuracy. With the growing demand for more effective methods to help contain the spread of COVID-19, developers are looking for alternatives that ensure maximum accuracy while considering cost and ease of implementation.

To meet these needs, Dialog Semiconductor has developed a software solution that uses the currently available and implemented technology and BLE infrastructure. When implemented as a software upgrade for BLE devices with system-on-chip (SoC) systems, this solution enables more precise distance measurement, similar to radar measurement.

This article describes how contact tracking works. Bluetooth devices and accompanying software from Dialog Semiconductor were also presented, offering a more accurate solution for implementing the accurate distance measurement functionality required for contact tracing and other proximity detection applications.

Why contact tracing is key to stopping COVID-19

Reducing the spread of infectious diseases is the cornerstone of epidemiology and is of particular importance in managing the health of populations exposed to new viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus that causes COVID-19. One of the most effective tools for reducing outbreaks is through contact tracing practices.

Contact tracing is basically simple: it is about identifying and notifying people who have recently come in close proximity to an infected person and may have become infected themselves. In practice, the contact tracing workflow is quite complex and involves large numbers of case-by-case staff interviewing infected people and alerting and assisting those who may be at risk of contamination (Figure 1). In the event that informed persons limit contacts with others, the chain of transmission of the virus is broken.

Figure 1: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a contact tracing workflow of building a contact list provided by an infected person to notify people who may require a 14-day quarantine recommended for suspected COVID-19 infections. (Image credit: CDC)

The need to quickly identify and notify a possible infection is particularly important in the case of COVID-19 as scientists are still working to fully understand how the disease is transmitted and how it becomes infected. The fundamental and medically relevant facts of COVID-19 were established relatively recently. For example, a few months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus was identified, epidemiologists confirmed that it is possible for the virus to be transmitted by infected people who do not yet show symptoms of COVID-19 [Furukawa] 1.

Since we are aware that contamination is possible through contact with asymptomatic individuals, early contact tracing has become crucial to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the standard epidemiological modeling method, the CDC COVIDTracer spreadsheet shows the impact of early contact tracing on the daily number of new cases in a representative population of 100,000 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The CDC model illustrates how the use of different strategies can flatten the curve of the daily number of new infections in one year in a population of 100,000. The red dotted line marks the beginning of any contact tracking strategy. (Image credit: CDC)

As shown in Figure 2, the course of an outbreak can vary greatly depending on the choice of one of three different contact tracing strategies:

  • Strategy 1: Contact tracing begins only after a person has developed symptoms of COVID-19 (7 days after infection in this model - based on research).
  • Strategy 2: contact tracing begins as soon as the first symptoms appear (6 days after infection).
  • Strategy 3: Contact tracing begins when a person tests positive for COVID-19, but before symptoms appear (4 days after infection, when asymptomatic infection becomes possible according to studies).

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