The Southeastern Conference is implementing the same cutting-edge proximity technology devices it has used during SEC football games for the upcoming college basketball season.
In a statement released this afternoon, the league announced it will use KINEXON SafeZone technology, which includes lightweight, wearable devices called SafeTags, to enhance COVID-19 contact tracing efforts during the 2020-21 men’s and women’s basketball seasons.
The KINEXON SafeZone will be used conference-wide for men’s and women’s basketball student-athletes during practices and games. The devices will also be used by officials during all SEC men’s and women’s basketball games.
Approximately the size of a watch face, the device can be built into equipment or uniforms for use on-field in practices and games.
“We have been pleased with the results produced by the use of the KINEXON SafeZone technology in football to support a healthy environment for student-athletes,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “KINEXON continues to provide the SEC with a modern and effective solution to meet the unique contact tracing challenges associated with athletic competition in close contact sports.”
SafeZone uses ultra-wideband technology to accurately calculate the proximity between individuals by distance and length of time in order to perform quick and accurate contact tracing when someone is symptomatic or tests positive for COVID-19. The contact data is logged in a secure system and can be accessed to contact trace in the event of an infection.
“KINEXON SafeZone has played an essential role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within SEC football programs,” said KINEXON Executive Vice President Jim Garofalo. “Our trusted digital approach to contact tracing will be a contributing factor which allows the conference’s men’s and women’s basketball season to be played safely. With our solution, school medical officials are empowered to use real data to identify exposure to the virus.”
The SafeTags can also be used to enforce physical distancing regulations by flashing a red warning light when people are within six feet of each other.
UK head coach John Calipari said back in October that, on top of the program’s on-campus bubble they built when players first arrived on campus earlier this summer, they have been wearing the tracing technology to ensure safety.
Between the brand new technology and protocols implemented inside and around the Kentucky basketball facilities, Calipari said the team is “fine” under his watch in Lexington.
“Let me start by telling you, we are in a bubble,” Calipari said in a preseason Zoom meeting with the media. “So, the bubble being our lodge, single room and their own bath. Cook/chef in the building. They eat there. They walk across the parking lot into the practice facility, which there is no one even in the offices in that building yet, so they’re in there by themselves. Other parts of the building have some other teams but we never cross paths. We never see each other. We’re in a bubble. I’m feeling very comfortable to the 25th of November.
“Unless you’re playing against somebody a lot, you’re not going to be in his space more than 15 minutes. Six feet. And as coaches, managers, we’re not near the players five minutes in a practice, three minutes in a practice. So, what we’ve mitigated by wearing the chips, if it’s the players and they’re staying in the bubble, they should be fine. We leave the bubble to go home, managers, coaches — some of the managers are in the lodge — but come back, we’re not in their — We’ve got masks on and we’re not close enough to them. So I feel good until the 25th. The 25th, I don’t know how this thing’s going to play out.”