Workplace Safety: Three Ways to Use Technology for Contact Tracing
A primer on contact tracing solutions. Learn how to leverage your technology infrastructure for employee safety while paving the way for smart building automation.
Aug 10, 2020
Six months into the coronavirus pandemic, the one fact we can agree on is that this virus will be with us for a while and we must figure out ways to continue working safely. Those of us who can work from home will continue to do so – but for many other people, work from home is not an option. We are a technology integrator. Our challenge is to understand how our abundance of technology can be used to create a safer workspace for our clients.
Effective Contact Tracing: A Blend of Human & Technology
One layer of workplace safety – among several critical others – is implementing a system for contact tracing. This means, once a person is tested or is presumed positive for the virus, all people who have been in proximity to the individual are rapidly identified and notified. By taking these precautionary measures, we can stop the spread. Effective contact tracing requires a blend of human investigation and technology to provide a full picture. Technology can give an initial view of the whereabouts of the person in a building, the assets they used and (in some cases) people with whom they interacted. The follow-up human investigation fills in details that technology cannot provide and allows management to assess the risk and plan mitigation efforts.
Three Ways to Contact Trace Through Technology
Currently, the leading technology channels to use for contact tracing are through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Access Control.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are somewhat related. Visitors or employees to the workplace install an app on their phones, or wear a Bluetooth device, and their location is continuously streamed through the Wi-Fi access points and into a software dashboard. The technology is not advanced enough to triangulate from multiple Wi-Fi access points and pinpoint a precise location, but what you get is a fairly accurate radius trail from the Wi-Fi access point. Bluetooth is even more accurate since the receivers must be a closer range to the individual. Whichever method you use, you get a detailed route of the infected individual, can see who interacted with them along the way and the duration of that contact. Aside for the purpose of contact tracing, this information is helpful to your janitorial team in informing them where to best use their resources and to deep clean.
Access control is more generalized. As employees swipe their fobs or cards to enter an access zone, a timestamp is recorded. The software will map out the areas the individual visited and alert colleagues who shared these spaces during the same times. In addition, it can also alert people who swiped in immediately before or after the infected person, for some type of proximity report. Clients using an open-platform virtual management system, such as Genetec, can engineer hybrid tracing systems that integrate the Bluetooth data with the access control and create comprehensive proximity reports.
In whichever method is used, it’s important not to lose sight of the end-goal: a significant portion of employee safety and wellbeing is a workplace that embraces a culture of trust and privacy. While the technology can produce granular data on employee whereabouts, it is essential not to create a ‘Big Brother’ culture. We recommend that alongside the technology, companies also evaluate their HR protocols and privacy policies.
More than Contact Tracing: Smart Buildings & Intelligent Safety
Looking further afield, a technology that tracks people with such specificity is truly the backbone of a smarter workplace. A detailed IoT infrastructure paves the way for a host of intelligent automation applications, such as:
Responsive HVAC and lighting controls: calibrate room lighting and temperature for maximum comfort and energy efficiency.
Janitorial efficiency: schedule cleanings according to room usage.
Space allocation & workplace design: optimize traffic flow and workstation allocation
Wayfinding: share customized directions for visitors
Safe mustering and emergency evacuation: have immediate visibility of all building occupants
Attendance and occupancy: If in a higher education setting, take immediate class attendance using the Wi-Fi data; monitor building occupancy for over-crowding.