Coronavirus: artificial intelligence to protect Belgian rail workers

Coronavirus: artificial intelligence to protect Belgian rail workers
Credit: Belga

Belgian railway network manager Infrabel will use artificial intelligence (AI) to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, it announced on Monday.

As of Tuesday, sensors installed on five pilot sites where people are likely to gather will issue an alert if workers do not wear masks or do not respect social distancing measures.

A sensor will be able to detect if two people are standing too close together or if there are too many people in a room.

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Another sensor can emit an audible alert to remind people to wear a face mask if it detects someone not wearing a mask or if someone is wearing their mask incorrectly.

These tools were developed by Infrabel itself, with teams refocusing ongoing research. The initial projects were aimed at adapting AI to the needs of railway workers, such as detecting if a technician falls on the tracks, or to see whether workers are wearing personal protective equipment.

"They are not monitoring instruments, but tools to encourage us to remain vigilant as we gradually return to normal life," said Infrabel spokesman Frédéric Sacre. "Anyone who doesn't want to heed the warning will not be forced to do so," he added.

Infrabel employees in the field will also be supplied with transmitters that can vibrate, emit a sound signal or flash when two technicians get too close to each other.

Infrabel workers are required to wear face masks when they move around but are not required to do so when sitting at their work stations.

The AI will be used initially in Ath, Schaerbeek, Ghent and La Louvière.

The Brussels Times

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