7 start-ups developing physical-distancing solutions

28 May 2020

Image: © eldarnurkovic/Stock.adobe.com

We look at seven start-ups creating ways to help businesses implement physical-distancing guidelines, from video analytics and wearables to apps for queuing.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began to change the way that most of us live and work, we have been looking at developments start-ups have made in response to the crisis.

In early April, we looked at start-ups that were using or pivoting their existing products and services to take on challenges posed by the pandemic. And last week, we looked at start-ups that have created tools aimed at remote workers and distributed workforces, as people around the world embrace working from home.

As businesses begin to reopen, this week we look at seven start-ups creating solutions aimed at encouraging physical distancing in shops, restaurants and workplaces.

The Line Lite

Founded by Dublin-based team Anthony Remedy and John O’Neill, the Line Lite is a recently launched digital booking system that allows customers to pre-book shopping visits to avoid waiting in line and to help retailers monitor the number of people on their premises.

Remedy, who has worked in the events, entertainment and hospitality industries, wanted to set up the digital booking system as he is well acquainted with managing queues. Targeted at shopfronts and the high street, the Line Lite aims to help retailers regain consumer trust in the shopping experience.

The start-up’s tech is built on the back of Oshi Software. O’Neill is the CEO of Oshi, which has developed software for event ticketing that was used during the Papal visit to Ireland in 2018 and is used by Croke Park on match days.

The Line Lite’s tech is specifically aimed at the retail industry. It has been adopted by Siopaella as the business prepares to reopen later this summer, and Remedy told the Irish Times that the team is in “advanced talks” with a number of Irish retailers, independent stores and bars.


Ordee is a Waterford-based start-up that has developed a physical-distancing app aimed at leisure and hospitality businesses. Launched by Anthony Cronin and Criostóir O’Codlatáin Lachtna earlier this month, Ordee’s app aims to help businesses readjust and reopen to the public while adhering to Government guidelines.

Ordee has a queuing functionality that aims to prevent customers from standing outside a venue or queueing up in a crowd, and gives them notifications of their place in the virtual queue. The app also lets users see the capacity of a venue in real time, as well as pay for food and drinks purchased on the premises.

Businesses can use Ordee to manage bookings or set aside space for walk-ins, who can be clocked in and out manually if they are not using the app.


Based in Norwich, Pathfindr is an IoT start-up that has previously been featured in our Start-up of the Week series. The company was founded in 2016 and began working on indoor wayfinding technology, tracking cats for BBC’s The Secret Life of the Cat programme, before providing its tech to companies like Rolls-Royce.

At the beginning of May 2020, the company said it had turned its focus to creating wearable personal safety devices aimed at helping workplaces meet physical-distancing protocols. Pathfindr has created an ultra-wideband, low-power device that scans for nearby colleagues using a 3.5GHz radio frequency, which it said provides more accuracy than Bluetooth.

Pathfindr clients have implemented the devices, which are sold for £49 per unit and can be worn on a lanyard, into workplaces such factories, warehouses, logistics hubs and construction sites.


SmartVid.io is a Massachusetts start-up that has created a video analytics platform for the architecture, engineering and construction industry. The company’s technology aims to reduce site risk with AI, by observing, monitoring and predicting risk.

The company has updated its solution with new features in light of the coronavirus crisis, encouraging site managers to connect sites and automate observations. The technology can detect if workers are not wearing face masks, gloves or other personal protective equipment, and alerts site managers if physical-distancing protocols aren’t being followed.

SmartVid.io’s platform auto-generates daily reports for managers, while triggering alerts to identify areas where mitigation efforts could be improved.

Triax Technologies

Founded in 2012 by Dale and Chad Hollingsworth, Triax Technologies is an IoT business headquartered in Connecticut. The company recently developed a device called TraceTag, which can be mounted on the hardhat of construction workers and communicates with other TraceTags in range to detect close contact.

TraceTag can passively collect worker interactions for contact tracing, should an individual test positive for Covid-19. It also actively provides feedback to wearers, in the form of a visual and audible alarm that goes off when workers are not adhering to physical-distancing guidelines.

According to Triax, TraceTag does not depend on Wi-Fi, GPS or off-site location tracking. It relies on ultra high-frequency radio signals.


Vancouver start-up Proxxi typically focuses on creating solutions to protect industrial workers from the dangers of electricity, but during the current crisis, it has joined many other companies in pivoting to focus on physical distancing. The company was founded by CEO Campbell MacDonald.

The company’s new device, Halo, is a wrist-worn band that briefly vibrates to inform wearers that another band is within two meters, reminding them of the need to maintain a distance. The device uses low-power Bluetooth to communicate with other nearby devices.

Organisations using the tech can download interaction data from a band to internally produce contact-tracing information in the event of Covid-19 case among the workforce. According to Proxxi, its device does not collect location data or any identifiable information.


Headquartered in San Francisco, VergeSense is a Y Combinator-backed SaaS company that develops workplace sensors powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Earlier this month, the firm raised $9m for its technology platform that includes real-time occupant counts and traffic-triggered cleaning notifications.

Founded by CEO Dan Ryan, the start-up has now updated its technology to provide physical-distancing insights to ensure that guidelines are being followed.

VergeSense also lets building managers set a maximum capacity for floors or office spaces, and has changed how the start-up generates smart cleaning reports with the aim of limiting the spread of the coronavirus in workplaces.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic