30 Enterprise Tech Solutions To Help Us Get Safely Back to Work and Play (To The Extent Possible!)
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
Covid19 is here to stay for a bit longer. That means the new rules for doing business under pandemic conditions will become more permanent. We’ve compiled our top picks of solutions out there to help businesses decide on the best solutions to get them moving again.
COVID19’s Body Blow to Business
The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on businesses and operations, large and small. The mandated shutdowns, disappearance of footfall, working from home, avoidance of public spaces, social distancing, drop in consumer spending and much more, have reshaped our lives, and the economy, for good.
Adapt or Disappear
And now, a second and third wave are driving home the reality that our unwanted guest - the Coronavirus - is here to stay for a while yet. As businesses begin to accept this new reality, they have a stark choice: Adapt to the new conditions, or you may have to shut your doors permanently.
The New Rules
At the time of writing this piece, the UK has broken its daily record of COVID19 victims. As governments scramble in the face of this ever-changing and worsening pandemic to reopen the economy, stricter social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines are being further enforced to ensure mitigation against the acceleration of the spread of the virus. Other rules are also emerging, including the ‘Rule of 6’ in the UK. To do business going forwards, having COVID-safe measures in place will be a must-have, not a good-to-have.
From Survival to Strategic Advantage
Yet it now ultimately falls to businesses themselves to lead on creating COVID-safe environments for both their staff and their customers. And with the disruption to the rules of the game and the upending of everything that was taken as a given, new opportunities can present themselves for those taking the initiative in this new health-sensitive world. Those who are able to create the safest environments for working, shopping, playing and travelling, will create the greatest confidence in their workforce and customers and so will reap the commercial benefits that will entail. This is not just about survival; it’s about breaking away from the pack. Those savvy enough to see this will be quick to embrace the new market dynamics and to win market share. Brand reputations will be won and lost in the coming weeks and months.
Temporary Half-Measures Just Won’t Cut It Any Longer
For the first phase of the pandemic, most businesses have depended on manual, mostly passive and labour-intensive measures to manage social distancing and mask-wearing. These have included new pandemic signage, tannoy reminders and members of staff doing crowd control. Everyone assumed this would all be over by the summer and so more permanent investments wouldn’t be required. It’s clear that this just won’t suffice any more.
Technology to the Rescue
Technology companies have been quick to respond to the rapidly emerging needs of this new world order. They have been busy building the products and solutions that will help us monitor and manage COVID-safety in the ‘new normal’ and ultimately navigate our way out of this global crisis.
Picking the Right Solution
With the market in its infancy, it may be hard for business owners, facility managers and those responsible for COVID-safety in their businesses to find what they need. his article, and its accompanying COVID-Safety Tech Directory, hope to make the search easier.
Our focus is specifically on products and solutions targeted at managing social distancing, including mask-wearing and occupancy levels. We have broken these down into three main categories:
Apps & platforms
Camera and sensor-based analytics
All the companies and products mentioned in this article, as well as numerous others, are captured in a live directory that we will be regularly updating. If you have an enterprise solution for managing the return to work or leisure and would like to be listed in this directory, please email us your request.
Apps & Platforms
The Watson Works platform by IBM
A variety of new mobile apps and SaaS platforms have been developed in response to the need to manage social distancing and capacity levels. The key advantage to businesses is that there is typically little or no upfront cost; simply a monthly subscription. Most apps are also relatively simple to implement. However, a small effort would be required to educate staff and customers on how to leverage the new tool.
The Line Lite app attempts to help manage social distancing and occupancy levels before staff and/or customers arrive on the premise. Using the app, customers can pre-book slots at retail stores which minimises queues and safely maximises footfall, enabling companies to enhance the shopping experience for customers.
Spaceti effectively digitises the workspace. Rooms and areas within a premise become instantly bookable, assuring staff that there will be adequate space and distance for them when they visit the office. Managers, on the other hand, gain visibility into room usage levels. They can also perform contact tracing and monitor air quality.
Mind The Gap is an easy-to-install app that utilises both Bluetooth and audio signals on a mobile phone to create an ‘invisible boundary’ to alert workers when they come too close to one another. It has already been implemented by Network Rail in the UK
Ordee is an app primarily targeted at the hospitality industry. It enables businesses to easily survey customers, enable bookings and create virtual queues. As a result, they can minimise the number of people in certain areas of the premises at any one time. Businesses can view data insights overtime on a dedicated platform.
Watson Works is an AI-powered platform by IBM that enables businesses to manage the safe return of employees to the workplace. It assists managers with deciding when to return to the workplace, answering employee’s COVID-related questions, tracing potential exposure, staggering entry/exit times and more.
More apps and platforms are covered in our COVID-Safety Tech Directory.
Camera and Sensor-Based Analysis
Sociadex™ by Shapes AI analyses office space CCTV
Continually monitoring adherence to social distancing guidance to increase compliance would simply be too expensive and time-consuming to employ a human workforce to do. Fortunately, the progress of computer vision (CV) and artificial intelligence (AI) has enabled companies to apply these technologies to monitor the adherence to such protocols using camera feeds automatically. This is done either through proprietary devices and sensors that are installed or through leveraging existing CCTV networks. Camera-based solutions, therefore, can be seamlessly integrated and are applicable for retail stores, airports, train stations, hospitals, logistics companies, offices and more.
Sociadex by Shapes AI leverages CCTV feeds to generate a ‘Social Distancing Score’ which provides the basis for real-time alerts to staff and customers as well as deep data insights for managers. This score can also be publicly displayed to create full transparency and confidence. See Sociadex on BBC Click here. It works by analysing the CCTV feeds on the premises with proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) technology that interprets the distance people are keeping from one another, the time they spend in each other’s presence, whether or not they are wearing face coverings, the occupancy level of the room and any pertinent behaviours such as coughing.
PointGrab utilises proprietary smart sensors that attach to ceilings within premises to detect the crowd density of a room and the distance between people. All the processing takes place on the device which is already present in the offices of Deloitte, Coca-Cola and more. The company’s prior applications were in saving energy and optimally managing building space.
VergeSense also uses proprietary sensors for workplaces to monitor the distance between people. It produces a Social Distancing Score for given areas on the premises. This allows managers to see the impact of staggered shifts and room closures. It provides insight on which areas are a priority for sanitization.
Lanthorn.ai helps turn existing cameras into smart sensors by monitoring the distance between people, face mask compliance and room density. They produce data analytics reports so managers can see high risk and high traffic areas on the premises. Their product can also send notifications to those in charge to highlight risks to occupants.
Smartvid.io’s COVID-19 solution leverages existing images or installs internet-enabled cameras on construction sites to measure % compliance with social distancing, face masks and other PPE. Managers can see daily reports and certain areas on the site which require improvement.
More camera and sensor-based analytics solutions are covered in our COVID-Safety Tech Directory.
Pathfinder’s Safe Distancing Assistant alerts wearers when they’re too close
A slew of wearable technologies has been released that help manage social distancing within the workplace. Predominantly, they’ve been targeted at industrial workplaces due to the cost of having to equip users with the devices. Like an Apple Watch or FitBit, installation is seamless and workers require little to no instruction on how to use them. As such, businesses can start benefiting from their new wearable solution immediately.
Tended provides proximity hubs to employees within the premises that estimates the distance between each device. If the minimum distance is breached then they vibrate to remind the offending employees to maintain a safe distance from each other. The devices utilise their proprietary ultra-wideband technology which they claim to be accurate within 10cm (for perspective, Bluetooth is within 1-3m).
ZoneSafe is a wearable active tag that sends alerts to the wearers when they become too close to one another. It is designed for industrial settings, such as warehouses and construction sites.
Pathfindr has released a ‘Safe Distancing Assistant’, attachable to a lanyard, which warns wearers when they are close through an audible or vibrating alarm.
TraceTag by Triax Technologies can be fitted to hard hats or worn on the body to not only send out real-time alerts when workers become too close, but also collect data on the time they’re spending in each other’s presence and produce contact tracing reports.
Proxxi is a wearable wristband for social distancing, again sending alerts to wearers who come too close to one another. It also generates contact tracing insights to help managers quickly determine who needs to get tested or be quarantined to minimise disruption to the business.
More wearables solutions are covered in our COVID-Safety Tech Directory.
If Remote Work is an Alternative...
Spatial enables remote collaboration in AR
For some businesses, it may make more sense to create a more effective remote work environment rather than attempting to re-open their offices. Spatial uses the magic of augmented reality (AR) to provide realistic 3D avatars of co-workers who can also collaborate on designs and documents in a shared digital space overlaid on the physical world. What’s more, if your team does not possess AR headsets they can utilise their webcam and still get an immersive experience.
Choosing a Solution
If you’re wondering what solution is best to meet your business’ needs then these are some of the key questions to consider.
Will I need to train staff or raise awareness amongst customers to get them to use the new solution effectively?
Will someone have to install hardware at the premise? How does impact the cost and time to implement the solution?
Can my existing hardware investments be leveraged (e.g. company smartphones or CCTV)?
What will the total cost be of equipping each staff member and/or customer with a device (e.g. wearables)?
What COVID-safe behaviours do I want to monitor and manage (e.g. distance, mask-wearing, capacity levels)?
Do I need live alerts of social distancing violations or overall compliance figures? Or both?
Conclusion: Can COVID-Safety be a Growth Generator?
Technology companies have come to the fore during this pandemic by quickly introducing new products, or repositioning and adapting existing ones, to allow a faster return to business as usual whilst minimising public health risk. The most forward-thinking businesses will not view COVID-safety as yet another cost to bear and a new regulation to begrudgingly comply with. Instead, they will view it as an opportunity to thrive under the new market dynamics - a chance to grow revenues, improve internal processes and enhance brand reputation. Ultimately, these will help them become more profitable and productive during and after the pandemic.
View All 30+ in the COVID-Safety Tech Directory (new solutions added regularly)