Technology startup Hack Partners has developed a new social-distancing app for use on Network Rail.

The Mind The Gap app has been piloted with Britain’s railway infrastructure owner  and is now ready for industry-wide deployment.

Mind The Gap works by using inaudible, high frequency sounds and Bluetooth to calculate the distance between mobile phones.

The technology does not require an active internet connection, and has no user-tracking in place, which Hack Partners said means that no sensitive data is collected, stored or shared.

Haydon Bartlett-Tasker, COO of Hack Partners explained that the app had originally been built for railway staff, but now shows promise in other industries.

“We quickly identified it could be opened up to other industries which – like the rail sector – face difficult challenges in safeguarding their employees that work across a variety of environments.

“With the economy reopening, businesses are under immense pressure to trade safely in this ‘new normal’. Having trialled this tool with Network Rail we are confident that we can help businesses overcome the challenge of keeping employees socially distanced.

River Tamoor Baig, CEO of Hack Partners added: “Anyone who simply wants to help their staff stay safe and maintain social distancing making their workplace more Covid-19-secure, this app will help them achieve that goal.”

Baig said discussions have now begun with contact tracing app developers who are struggling to get accurate distance results.

Network Rail was closely involved in the creation of the app and has now made it available for their 40,000 staff to use at their own discretion.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s safety, technical, and engineering director, said of the app: “It will sit alongside all the measures we’re putting in place – from deep cleaning, clear signage, staggered shifts and flexible working – and will really help remind people to keep their distance to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.”

Network Rail rolled the app out to the company phones of a number of teams that have needed to return to an office environment, including those responsible for developing timetables in its Milton Keynes HQ, and workers in a Sussex maintenance depot.

Frobisher continued: “We want to be at the forefront of industry-leading tech, to work with innovative companies like Hack Partners, and we’re delighted to be part of the development and deployment of Mind the Gap.

“It certainly doesn’t replace other measures we have in place but it’s a helpful reminder of social distancing and we’ve had very positive feedback from our trial users. The app is now available to use at the discretion of our people who return to offices and operational buildings.”