Safety First

A flood of protective gadgets in every conceivable form is emerging in the pandemic era. We found five to try.

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It’s your first day back at the office since the COVID-19 outbreak began. You have your smartphone, laptop, and ID card, just as you did before. Now, however, you also have a smart band that beeps whenever you come within six feet of another person, and a lanyard around your neck to help trace which colleagues may have become infected. Strapped to your face, meanwhile, is a face mask—one that has a special antivirus coating.

Without a doubt, the world is a very different place as we slowly but surely venture out—to shop, to dine, and to go to work. And just as different will be the gadgets we carry to protect ourselves and others from COVID. Indeed, the pandemic has inspired a flurry of innovation in every conceivable form—from the most sophisticated of technologies to more basic but clever pocket and carry devices.

According to David Schonthal, clinical associate professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, similar outbursts of creativity followed the Great Depression and the last recession. What’s different now, of course, is how many are likely to stick. “Usually, one of the most difficult factors in bringing new products to market is that people tend to be creatures of habit,” says Schonthal. “It takes a lot of convincing to get them to change behavior.”

Or a pandemic. “Our habits immediately became up for grabs,” he adds, “and that opened the door for innovation to take root in a way it never has before.”

Here are five of the most practical and safety-conscious pandemic-related gadgets we found for personal and business use.



On average, people touch their face 23 times an hour. The Immutouch aims to stop that behavior. Similar to a smartwatch, this wearable device uses an algorithm to track the position of your hands and vibrates every time they come near your face. 


About $1,400 ($125 per data station, plus software)

Worn around the neck like a lanyard, Bump flashes and beeps to alert users when they are too close to another user. Meant for use in crowded office buildings, the system works with displays placed at entrances and exits to track when people are in the building, and automatically downloads data when the device comes in contact with other wearers. 


About $20

Not unlike a clothes hanger, the Hygienehook allows for hands-free door opening. The device is small enough to fit in a pants pocket, allowing users to carry it around much like a pair of keys.

Virustatic Shield


Face masks, of course, have become the most ubiquitous wearable to come out of the pandemic, and it’s clear it may only become more so in corporate office settings. This British firm says its version has a special antivirus coating that is the product of 10 years of research by UK biochemists.


Cost varies by device and installation

Called “proof of health” wearables, these devices monitor and remember person-to-person interactions with other users to aid in contact tracing in the event of virus exposure. Users wear the device as a smart band or lanyard; those with viral symptoms press a button to report their health status. The system then notifies others who have come in contact with that device without sharing personal details of the user.