New Flanders Make technology helps businesses to safely resume their activities


Research centre Flanders Make presents 3 new technological solutions that businesses can use to protect their employees and visitors against COVID-19 infection. It concerns 1 device screening the body temperature and 2 systems that help people to keep a distance of minimum 1.5m. These solutions can be combined and used separately according to the specific needs of the individual businesses. Flanders Make already applies them and now offers them to businesses as well. Weaving machine manufacturer Picanol was already actively involved at an early stage and is currently testing one of the social distancing systems in its factory in Ieper, at the moment with 8 and as of next week with 80 employees.

“Flanders Make supports companies with technological research and innovation. To get through this difficult period, our top researchers have developed new technological solutions within a very short time span to help companies to continue their production and other activities as quickly and as safely as possible. With these solutions, we want to give our industry and our economy a positive boost”, says Urbain Vandeurzen, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Flanders Make.

How do these new systems for temperature screening and social distancing work in practice?

Dirk Torfs, CEO of Flanders Make:  “To begin with, you immediately check the body temperature of everyone entering the premises with a system based on infrared measurements. When in doubt, you can use a thermometer and only allow entrance to persons with a healthy body temperature. This allows to rapidly screen large groups, with respect for social distancing, and to reduce the risk of sick people within your business. This system could also be used in the retail sector and in public buildings.

Once you are inside, every employee who has a job in which social distancing may be difficult to maintain, must wear a small device around the neck that gives an acoustic signal as soon as someone comes too close. This new device will thus be worn close to the mouth, the ideal starting point for measuring the distance. In this way, operators within production can get to work safely. This device helps employees to immediately correct their behaviour and remain alert.

In places where many people come together – such as an entrance hall or canteen – you can place our camera system, which also generates an acoustic signal when people come too close to one another. The camera images are not recorded and people cannot be recognised on them, so there’s no danger of violating the privacy legislation. It could therefore be used on a wider scale, for instance in the catering industry.”

Successful first tests within the production facilities of Picanol

Geert Ostyn, VP Weaving Machines at Picanol and Vice-Chairman of Flanders Make: “Picanol was already involved at an early stage in the development of social distancing devices and the evaluation of the technology on the shop floor. At the moment, we are testing this system in Ieper with 8 operators wearing the small device around the neck. Whenever they come too close to one another, they immediately hear a signal that reminds them to increase their mutual distance. If the evaluation turns out positive, we want to extend the system next week to 80 employees. The system can be easily installed, does not require fixed infrastructure, works entirely locally and respects the privacy of our employees. It is a nice example of how a research centre can rapidly develop a technological solution that can be deployed in companies within a very short period of time.”

Flanders Make is currently mapping the specific needs of interested companies and is negotiating with potential manufacturers for the various systems. The aim is to support our industry by enabling a rapid introduction.

Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister for Innovation: “Research and innovation can help companies to safely resume their activities after the corona crisis. Amidst this crisis, our Flemish manufacturing industry is working hard to think of possible solutions and auxiliary tools to fight corona. With temperature screening and distance measuring systems, the required safety can be ensured. This shows yet again the comprehensive expertise of our Flemish researchers and scientists. As Science and Innovation Minister, I can only be very proud of them.”

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