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UNCW athletics using new technology to keep players and coaches safe from COVID-19

Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:13 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The UNCW Athletic Department is doing everything it can to keep student athletes and coaches safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department recently invested in a new technology created by Kinexon, called SafeZone, which helps track contact between players and coaches when they are practicing or playing.

Before practice or games, all coaches and players put on their SafeZone tile that transmits a UHF radio signal. When they get close to each other, each device collects data.

“Any time two devices are within six feet of each other, they are recording data,” said Scott Hill, Director of Athletic Training at UNCW. “So, if you look at the data sheet that comes out, you can pull any player. One...it will show everyone that player one had contact with that day, and it ranks it from the most exposure to the least exposure. So, you can see that player one had more contact over 15 minutes...that would put them in a contact trace standpoint.”

“Technology is great, especially in these times for contact tracing and to identify where our risk points are and how our teammates are interacting with each other,” added Mark Wagner, UNCW’s Senior Associate A.D./Internal Operations.

The hope is that SafeZone will allow UNCW to avoid having to postpone games or put a program on pause because of a positive COVID-19 test.

“We look at that time of exposure and who was in contact with them that falls into that category,” said Hill. “Then we can pull that person and we can extrapolate that all the way down and see who is in there. So, we can easily contact trace that out and that’s the whole reason why we got it...so we wouldn’t have to shut our entire team down, and maybe pull one or two people out.”

When COVID-19 is no longer an issue, the athletic department can continue using the devices. With a simple software update, the tiles can track an athlete’s performance.

“We can look at all types of different things...the speed that they ran, or swim, or whatever. How explosive they were...all types of different variables like that,” said Hill. “So, we can use it from a performance standpoint once we are out of this COVID situation.”

UNCW is one of a handful of schools in the CAA using SafeZone, along with all the teams in the ACC and SEC.

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