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Development and Evaluation of Bluetooth Low-Energy Device for Electronic Encounter Metrics



Katy Keenan, Joe Aumentado, Harold Booth, Kimberly Briggman, Mikail Kraft-Molleda, Michele Martin, Rene Peralta, Angela Robinson, Krister Shalm, Michelle Stephens, Emily Townsend, Sae Woo Nam


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic led to the need for tracking of physical contacts and potential exposure to disease. Traditional contact tracing can be augmented by electronic tools called "electronic contact tracing" or "exposure notification.". Some methods were built to work with smartphones; however, smartphones are not prevalent in some high-contact areas (e.g., schools and nursing homes). We present the design and initial testing of low-cost, highly privacy preserving wearable exposure notification devices. Several devices were constructed based on existing hardware and operated independently of a smartphone. The method (devices and analyses) was not able to reliably use the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) as a proxy for distance between pairs of devices; the accuracy of RSSI as a proxy for distance decreased dramatically outside of the idealized conditions. However, even an imperfect device could be useful for research on how people use and move through spaces. With some improvement, these devices could be used to understand disease spread and human or animal interaction in indoor environments.
Journal of Research (NIST JRES) -


Bluetooth low energy, BLE, COVID, encounter metrics, encounter notification


Keenan, K. , Aumentado, J. , Booth, H. , Briggman, K. , Kraft-Molleda, M. , Martin, M. , Peralta, R. , Robinson, A. , Shalm, K. , Stephens, M. , Townsend, E. and Nam, S. (2022), Development and Evaluation of Bluetooth Low-Energy Device for Electronic Encounter Metrics, Journal of Research (NIST JRES), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online],, (Accessed June 15, 2024)


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Created January 20, 2022, Updated November 29, 2022