Belgian railway tests sensors to keep workers separate during COVID-19

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium's railways are testing smart cameras with sensors to make sure their employees wear masks and keep their distance to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Starting next week, the so-called smart cameras will be installed at five strategic points in the offices of the Belgian railway infrastructure operator Infrabel, where technicians normally meet, such as the cafeteria.

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A warning will be issued if people are too numerous, don't have a face mask, or get too close.

“We must ensure that our team complies with the various social distancing guidelines. That is why we are assembling a series of devices based on artificial intelligence, ”Benoit Gilson, director of strategy at Infrabel, told Reuters on Monday.

Using the AI ​​software available online, Infrabel said it has developed a way to interpret images from the camera for the purpose of COVID-19 protection. The company will employ an algorithm to calculate whether workers are very close or wearing a face mask.

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In a demonstration on Monday, employees seen on camera were shown on a giant screen as stick figures whose distance from each other could be measured in meters. On another screen, a camera detected whether a worker entering the room was wearing a mask.

"The whole issue of distance (between individuals) is (managed by) a mathematical model that we developed," said Daniel Degueldre, head of Infrabel's information technology team.

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The company, which has 11,000 employees, said it was already working on ways to use sensors to protect technicians working on Belgian railways, placing cameras on helmets that would alert the team in an accident.

This knowledge was reevaluated to combat the coronavirus.

Responsible for the 3,602 km (2,238 miles) of railway lines in Belgium, Infrabel manages one of the most dense railway networks in the world.

Written by Robin Emmott; Editing by Giles Elgood

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