Social distancing in times of COVID-19: How Aura Aware ‘smart device’ has the world turning towards Amsterdam?



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Dealing with a pandemic is tough but simple measures can definitely go a long way. While the governments of the European countries are now easing the lockdown and people are slowly getting back to work, it has become an important goal for all the tech companies to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Several tech startups have already come up with inventive solutions to ensure that people are safe from the ongoing pandemic. Aura Aware is one such startup! The Amsterdam-based company has recently developed a ‘smart’ device to help businesses maintain safe social-distancing for themselves and their customers.

A ‘smart’ social distancing device 

Aura Aware is basically a social distance sensor that warns if customers do not maintain a separation of at least 2 meters. Companies like IKEA are already using it. According to Janneke van den Heuvel, co-founder & CEO Aura Aware, “it is a great idea to maintain healthy social distancing during the pandemic.” 

The smart device is basically an LED panel that has a laser depth sensor at its base. It is capable of alerting people via audio-visual cues when they break the social distancing norm of 6 feet. It changes from green to red, to warn the person that they are too close. And if the person is not looking at the sign, in that case, if you approach less than 90 centimeters, a beep sound alarm goes on.

LIDAR tech: More accurate than Bluetooth and GPS

Aura Aware employs LIDAR technology, which is commonly used in self-driving cars to detect environmental objects and its quite a practical solution because it is not violent for the merchant or for the customer. Besides, distances can be customised from the mobile app, and also the activation of the audio alarm.

The company has already shipped 10,000 orders worldwide and is now ready to manufacture 200,000 more in the coming months. 

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In an exclusive interview with Silicon Canals, Janneke van den Heuvel, founder & CEO Aura Aware says, “Since the device leverages LIDAR technology, it is also more accurate than Bluetooth and GPS. It can be synced via an app, which enables two additional functionalities. The first one is adjusting the distance. For example, one can set the device to go off at less or greater distances in case it is being used in another country where social distancing rules are different. Secondly, there’s an audio beeping notification as well, which can be turned on or off via the app. It is also a plug-in device, which means you can either plug it into a standard power charger, or a power bank.” 

Aura Aware: How it all started?

Aura Aware as an idea was conceptualised by Van Den Heuvel and her co-founder Steven Kroon. Van Den Heuvel is also the CEO of TryLikes, that develops software and hardware-based solutions to measure customer satisfaction on the shop floor. 

Talking about the origin of the product, Van Den Heuvel says, “At TryLikes, we help a lot of retail real-estate companies with optimising their customer experience. And we do that with various system solutions including hardware and software. For example, we help several supermarkets and large retailers with queue management, so they can open and close cash registers in a better way.”

She goes on saying, “With the COVID-19 outbreak, companies needed to address a new kind of situation. While providing a customer-friendly and service-minded experience is important, the first priority in the upcoming times is the creation of a safe environment for both, employees and customers. We thought about how we could implement our knowledge and solutions to meet this new demand, and how to pull this off in a smarter way instead of putting out some stickers and signs that are not interactive. And that’s how the idea was born.”

About five weeks ago. Soon after, the company built a prototype, tested it and things took off from there. 

‘Producing in the Netherlands’

Van Den Heuvel also reveals the current challenges Aura Aware is facing right now. “There is currently a notable shortage worldwide on various components for measuring distance. The challenge right now is to receive all components in time and perform fast deliveries. However, we are doing a good job in this aspect. This is mainly because of the various TryLights connections we have from the past. In order to ensure full quality control, we are producing the devices in the Netherlands. We have known this company for a long time, and they can do up to 200,000 units in a very short period of time.”

While Aura Aware is being sold in the Netherlands, it is also being shipped out for international orders. Van Den Heuvel says, “While we couldn’t yet find time to reach out to other countries yet, we’re getting on that as well. Already companies from all over the world ordered Aura Aware and we are shipping it to them. We expect the Aura Aware to be made available soon in the US, UK, Germany, Dubai, Australia, and a lot of different areas.”

One can buy Aura Aware from the company’s website and it will be shipped to you from the Netherlands. Available in different types of wood and colours, the device starts at €129 and can be customised to blend in with your home’s decor. Companies such as IKEA, Sodexo, and Jack’s Casino have already commenced using it in their stores and warehouses.

This article is produced in collaboration with StartupAmsterdam. Read more about our partnering opportunities.

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Akansha Srivastava

Akansha Srivastava previously served as Silicon Canals' Editor in Chief. A typical tech trend follower. Favourite job: analyzing the global tech industry. A true camera geek, gadget lover and travel enthusiast. You can reach her via [email protected].

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