Tech Holding NBA Gamers Safer Inside Their Bubble

Tech Keeping NBA Players Safer Inside Their Bubble

With stadiums across the country standing empty, sports organizations have worked hard to keep their athletes safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. In one of the most famous experiments of the year, the National Basketball Association decided to isolate their teams and support staff in facilities around the Disney World Resort in Florida.

The NBA turned to a mix of aggressive isolation, traditional hygiene practices, and new technology to limit the possible spread if the virus got onto campus. Orlando Magic's Glass Half Full blog described the situation:

"In the bubble, players, coaches and staff use a mobile app and the Oura ring to monitor health, a Kinexon tracking device to measure social distance, and a Disney Magic ribbon that is scanned at various checkpoints in the hotel, and practice sites an all-clear green light notification. Everyone also has a thermometer and a pulse oximeter with their fingertips in their room. There are healthy habit signs everywhere, and NBA-branded masks and hand sanitizers are readily available. "

The three main tools in the plan are Oura Smart Rings, Kinexon Smart Tags, and Disney Magicbands. Let's examine how they work and what role they play in the security of the NBA campus.

So … what is an oura?

Like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, Oura is a wearable fitness tracker with sensors that record health and wellness information. Most wearables look and feel like a wristwatch, but Oura is different. It is a lightweight titanium band that is worn on the finger rather than the wrist.

The embedded sensors record physical activity, heart rate and body temperature. The battery lasts about a week and all data collected is sent to an accompanying smartphone app. Temperatures are measured directly from the wearer's skin and infrared light reads the heart rate through the blood vessels in the finger. The Oura app evaluates the information along with sleep and step measurements to create a general readiness rating. Player data can also be sent to the NBA clinical teams for review.

Temperature checks are one of the most common screening measures used to combat COVID-19, and Oura is one of the few wearables capable of tracking them. Employers, schools, theme parks, and other public institutions have started using thermal sensor cameras and non-contact thermometers to check for fevers on entry and sometimes, especially on employees at work, on exit. Oura tracks temperature throughout the day and provides much more data to help identify possible diseases.

Why a tracking tag?

Smart tags like the Kinexon SafeZone can be used to promote social distancing between people and make contact tracking easier. Social distancing is handled through a feature Kinexon calls a "Contact Alert". The label warns the wearer when another label is within a specified distance. This helps prevent incidents where users unconsciously get too close together. If a user tests positive for COVID-19 in contact tracing, a record of which tags were in contact can be used to determine who may still be exposed. The tags can also be configured to operate in groups or zones so that only people from outside a specific team or living area trigger an alert.

How do Disney Magicbands help?

If you've been to Disney World since 2013, you've likely seen MagicBands. These are waterproof wristbands that serve as a high-tech combination of room key and parking ticket. MagicBands can also be used to aid isolation procedures by controlling access to areas of the campus. Using the same wireless technology that magically displays driving photos on your Disney account, contact tracers can see where carriers have been.

The take away

Through the skillful use of consumer and business devices, the NBA has shown how existing technology can be used in support of pandemic control efforts. ESPN reports that COVID-19 tests and health checkups are being performed as frequently as daily, and all other CDC recommendations are being followed as well. The tools provide an extra layer of protection to keep the NBA players and staff safe and to provide basketball fans on TV.


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