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Sunday, May 9, 2021

Hazm: new smart bracelet that enforces quarantine rules

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by Sahar ElKabbash

A high-tech wristband named ‘Hazm’ has been proposed as a way to keep track of those who refuse to respect quarantine restrictions.

In a new project backed by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), a bracelet called ‘Hazm’ has been chosen as a potential way forward in Qatar’s fight against the spread of COVID-19.

In April this year, QNRF initiated a research program called Rapid Response Call, aiming to “address the challenges and opportunities presented by sudden and emergent situations such as that of COVID-19”. Out of 230 applicants to the program, 21 research proposals were chosen to receive a grant of up to QR 100,000. Each was given just three months to complete their projects.

Dr Hamid Menouar, a senior research and development expert at Qatar Mobility Innovations Center, is one of QNRF’s awardees. His project focuses on enforcing quarantine rules, having seen “a lack of respect” for them among some supposedly self-quarantined people.

Dr Hamid Menouar, who proposed the idea of a quarantine bracelet

Hamid’s proposed solution is a remote-tracking smart bracelet with the working title Hazm. Despite his inability to disclose the specifics of the technology, he says the device would be linked to the quarantined person’s smartphone and then connected to a government system or database.

“The bracelet is designed and developed in Qatar,” says Hamid. “Manufacturing for markets is not yet done as it is still in the pre-production phase. The location of mass production will depend on the complexity of the system and the availability of resources.”

He also believes that the device could work together with the controversial EHTERAZ mobile app. While the app makes potential virus carriers detectable and alerts people around them, it still cannot force anyone to stay at home. That’s where the bracelet comes in, allowing the government to monitor the wearer’s movement and see if they are remaining within their designated area.

Regarding the distribution plan, Hamid said that collaboration with the government would be the best bet since there are two options. The first is that the bracelet would be free, provided by the government to whomever is required to wear it. The second is that the device would still be compulsory, but that users would have to pay for it themselves at an, as-yet, undisclosed cost.

In light of the gradual return of air travel, Hamid added that the bracelet could be an affordable alternative to the government’s new hotel quarantine rule. According to his current plan, the cost of the device would not exceed QR 200.

The project is not supported by the government at the moment but Hamid has high hopes that it will reach that stage soon. He also believes the bracelet could have other potential uses such as electronic tagging of those under house arrest or travel restrictions, and marketing.

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