Innovative Technology Is Helping The Workplace Manage COVID-19
Like it or not, life as we know it has changed and won’t go back to “normal” for the foreseeable future, if ever. COVID-19 has not only changed the way we live, it has given rise to a range of new technology to help us combat the virus and stay safe. These include wearables, apps, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots.
Social distancing smart watches
The Ford Motor company is currently testing social distancing watches created by Samsung and Radiant RFID. These wearables vibrate and flash a color-coded warning when employees are about to breach the recommended 6 feet social distance zone. These devices use Bluetooth technology to detect how close workers are to each other and identify clustering. Supervisors can also receive alerts and reports to enhance monitoring. If successful, they will be implemented on a larger scale.
Tracking and tracing technology
Proxxi, a Canadian company, has introduced Halo wristbands which anonymously track a workers’ interactions with others wearing the bands. Companies can track which bands have been in contact, when, and how many times. These data can be used to trace which workers might need testing or quarantine if a colleague tests positive for the coronavirus.
A trial of Bulgarian residents is piloting Comarch LifeWristbands which record their movements via GPS data. The device can also monitor the wearer’s heart rate and be used to call emergency services. Additionally, India plans to manufacture location and temperature monitoring bands to be used for those in quarantine. Many other countries are following suit with similar devices.
Microsoft and University of Washington researchers have developed an app called CovidSafe, designed to alert its wearer if they have been near an infected person. The app assists the health department with manual tracing, as well as automated tracking using smart devices to follow those who have been in contact to notify them of an exposure.
Similarly, Apple and Google are creating a tracing tool to help people determine if they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. The opt-in app transmits an anonymous ID over Bluetooth. It will be compatible for both iOS and Android.
Canadian company SafetyTek has released COVID-19 Workforce Health Analysis app. Using a questionnaire, the app allows workers to self-report COVID-19 symptoms using their mobile phones. The assessment tool calculates how many are exhibiting symptoms or likely to be infected. It determines who is available to work at a facility or offsite location and who must stay home. COVID-19 Workforce Health Analysis allows managers to share updates with workers and monitor the COVID-19 status of employees from their computers.
Pega introduced a similar technology called the COVID-19 Employee Safety and Business Continuity Tracker dashboard. It allows companies to track the impact of pandemic on its operations. They can use it to respond to employee’s health status changes; manage employee availability for on-site or remote work; track how many staff have been exposed to the virus, tested, or quarantined; and help healthy employees return to work.
Clincians at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China are experimenting with AI software to detect visual signs of the pneumonia associated with COVID-19 using images from lung computerized tomography (CT) scans. This allows medical staff to more easily diagnose, isolate, and treat infected patients faster. This technology has been deployed at 34 hospitals in China and was used to review more than 32,000 cases.
COVID19Tracker™ by Kokomo offers a mobile app and web portal solution designed to help provide situational awareness, report, track, and manage Coronavirus cases within schools, communities, healthcare systems, and workplaces. AI uses a scoring system to trigger reports designed to manage false positives and more accurately identify at-risk employees. It includes features for managing incidents, reporting cases anonymously, and coordinating emergency response.
China has armed some of their police force with AI-powered helmets that can automatically identify people who could have the coronavirus. The helmets are equipped with a camera that can scan the body temperatures of anyone within a 16-foot radius. An alarm is triggered when a scanned body temperature exceeds 99.14 degrees Fahrenheit.
Xenex Disinfection Services has deployed LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots that deliver germicidal ultraviolet light pathogen-killing intensity that can disinfect an entire patient room in as little as 20 minutes. These robots have been in use for years, but the company claims they can eradicate the coronavirus as well as other pathogens. They are currently being used to decontaminate workspaces in 10 US military bases as well several college campuses. In addition to healthcare facilities, the robots will also be used in the hospitality industry.
Telehealth on steroids
Physicians and medical device engineers have created a hand-held device called MedWandTM. It allows health care professionals to conduct remote office visits from anywhere in the world. MedWand takes telehealth to the next level by collecting multiple vital sign readings in real time including: body temperature, pulse oxygen, heart, and respiratory rates. It has a built-in digital stethoscope, high-definition camera, and electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to aid in patient assessment. FDA approval is expected in mid-2020.