Irvine’s Stark Fitness has implemented a new contact tracing technology that was originally created as a project management and safety tool for large-scale construction projects.

During the pandemic, however, it has become a welcome safeguard in the fitness industry, helping reduce the spread of COVID-19 within the community. 

The technology, known as Proximity Trace, was developed by Connecticut-based company Triax Technologies, and is defined as a zone-based technology system. Proximity Trace was launched in April, and quickly became a critical part of Stark’s reopening process, allowing gym-goers to return to Stark’s facilities — with the benefit of contact tracing technology in place. 

Courtesy Of Stark Fitness

Tyler Mounce, Vice President of Morale for Stark Fitness, explained that Stark takes a technological approach to fitness, with a focus on being pioneers of technology within the industry.

With that, Stark Fitness has now become one of the first gyms to incorporate a wearable technology — specifically designed to monitor potential exposure to COVID-19 — within its normal, everyday clients/trainer operations.

Considering the hardship fitness centers and other local businesses faced during the forced closures of lockdown, the technology developed by Triax Technologies has assisted Mounce and the Stark team in resuming appointments for clients back inside the gym.  

“We are appointment-based, so, during the closures, we pivoted and we were either delivering socially distanced workouts in parks, or we were doing virtual training sessions,” Mounce said in an interview with Irvine Weekly. “Since then, we’ve transitioned almost all of the outdoor sessions back into the gym and most of the virtual training sessions back — we’re almost doing pre-COVID-19 volume — despite the fact that we’re actually limiting our capacity.” 

On Sept. 8, Orange County was given approval to move into the state’s Red Tier for COVID-19 monitoring, allowing fitness centers in Orange County to return to indoor operations with modifications.

Although hospitalizations continue to decline, county health experts continue to emphasize the importance of social distancing, hand washing and the use of face coverings in public.

Proximity Trace technology comes in the form of a badge, which is clipped on during a workout and designed to alert gym-goers once they come within the CDC’s social distancing protocol — six feet of another individual, for more than 15 minutes.  

Courtesy Of Stark Fitness

“In the event that someone in our community tests positive [for COVID-19] whether that’s a staff member or a client, we’ll actually be able to see who they were in close proximity to based on their badge — during the period they were contagious,” Mounce said. 

Lori Peters, Vice President of Marketing for Triax Technologies, shared some insight on how this zone-based location system was created and how it works.  

In an interview with Irvine Weekly, Peters explained that Triax created a technology called “Spot-r” in 2017,  which was developed to give real-time visibility to massive job sites, from the number of personnel on site to equipment monitoring. 

Peters explained that the success of “Spot-r” led to the creation of Triax’s Proximity Trace during the pandemic. Peters added that Triax has discovered that the Proximity Trace technology is not limited by industry, which has made it an extremely innovative tool across the board.

“We’ve really found that this is a great application across all industries — including fitness centers —  so it’s been exciting for us to really service a lot of different types of clients,” she said.

Proximity Trace works through a network of cloud servers, called Gateways, which are set up at a specific location.

For environments like Stark, the workforce wears a clip-on monitor during their workday, which tracks all interactions within the facility. In tandem, clients use a monitoring clip when entering, and take it off before they leave.

“For environments like Stark and non hardhat environments, we just use a clip that can be clipped to the shirt,” she said.

While Peters cautioned that this is not a solution for public health, Mounce said this is a technological shift in the fitness industry, which was already underway.

“The fitness industry was experiencing a shift that was developing as a result of IOT [Internet of Things], so people using various data centers — for example FitBit and MyFitness Pal — all these different apps and devices — I think the fitness industry was already shifting from a technology standpoint,” Mounce said.

“There is a lot that’s going on and I think that people looking at health as a valuable asset is something that hopefully will be a more permanent shift.”