The pandemic of COVID-19 has been proven to be one of the biggest global crises in recent years, introducing new challenges that we have never even thought about before. This large-scale disruption has led to collaborative innovation as tech companies started developing new solutions to a new problem with the technology we have today. While these solutions are very new, when used in the right context and together with necessary hygiene measures, they can be very effective. In this article, we will compare three COVID-19 technologies: image processing cameras, mobile applications and IoT wearable solutions.
Image Processing with cameras
Image processing has been used in many different applications against COVID-19. The most common example is the thermal camera, which is used as a monitoring tool to identify possible cases in a venue based on their body temperature. Another example is cameras being used to monitor social distancing between individuals to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Cameras can be used on masses conveniently, they are good at monitoring large, crowded groups of people.
- No need for controlled entrances/exits
- Easy to deploy especially in small to mid-sized venues
- Body temperature may not be the most accurate thing to measure when monitoring a venue. Many people who are in the infectious period don’t show symptoms like fever. Also, there may be other reasons than having COVID-19 that makes a person’s body temperature rise.
- Cameras are very susceptible to blindspots within a venue. Whether it is an object, another person or a group of people, the camera may not be able to pick up every person in its view. To reduce blindspots, it is important to increase the amount of cameras in the venue, which may be costly.
- Cameras have a limited scope and to be able to cover the entire premises, there has to be many cameras which again increase costs and deployment time depending on the size of the venue.
- Cameras are not a good solution for contact tracing. Current commercially available facial recognition technology is not very precise and accurate from long distances, which makes it difficult to create accurate filiation reports.
Mobile applications developed in collaboration with governments are generally used for communication purposes for the public. These applications are used to relay important information about COVID-19 like regional statistics, preventative measures and emergency hotline information. There are also applications that promote social distancing, however most of them require peer-to-peer communication between devices that have the application downloaded, making it difficult for widespread implementation within a venue. Some mobile applications use AR properties to help users maintain social distancing by showing them their safe zone, however mobile applications lack the capability to create filiation reports due to privacy concerns.
- It can be deployed conveniently by just downloading an application on the phones of all users
- Mobile applications are very good for communicating information. Users receive important information like daily case statistics, risky zones etc. and act accordingly.
- If a company wants to implement a mobile application based solution, employees who don’t have a smartphone should be given one, which can be costly.
- Automatic contact tracing causes privacy concerns
- In risky working areas, carrying a phone at all times may not be convenient or safe.
IoT applications with wearables
The use of wearable devices in safety management has been proven effective. In the case of COVID-19, wearable devices can be used for social distance monitoring and contact tracing in workplaces. Boni Global’s COVID-19 solution Safe Steps uses wearable technology together with a supporting mobile application, which is used to communicate with the employees about their social distance compliance with a given social distance score, as well as change their device settings to customize it to themselves and their working conditions. Devices can be set to activate when two or more are within at least 1.5 metres from each other and warn the users that they are breaking social distance. Contact data collected from the devices can be used to create filiation reports to limit the spread of the virus if any cases are identified within the premises.
- Wearable technologies using Bluetooth and UWB achieve sub-metre accuracy in positioning, producing the most accurate results
- IoT solutions can be very comprehensive – it helps users to maintain social distance at all times and management to analyze accurate contact data to create filiation reports
- Wearables are easy to carry and are convenient in every working situation.
- BLE 5.1 specification allows devices to have high accuracy without increasing the beacons, which makes the solution cost-effective
- For the devices to communicate with each other, there has to be new infrastructure deployed at the venue, which can take around 3-4 weeks depending on the size.
- Wearable devices have to be allocated, which makes this solution beneficial for venues where entrances/exits are monitored.
- Because this solution requires all individuals in a community to have wearable devices, it may not be very scalable and its practicality is limited to smaller populations.
Currently, there are many technology companies that are coming up with solutions, however these solutions are very new and have not gone through enough testing to be conclusively deemed as the best. In many ways, the effectiveness of them depend on the context they are being used, but when it comes to workplaces where entrances are controlled, there is a large permanent population and a large area to cover, IoT applications with wearable devices can be more beneficial in not just maintaining social distancing but also creating filiation reports to track any transmission. Meanwhile, in areas where the visitor population is larger and allocating wearables is impossible such as an airport, a solution like thermal screening and or AI-powered social distancing cameras combined with regular hygiene and disinfection measures can be helpful. On the other hand, mobile applications have a high usability to communicate important information and location-based statistics to the general population, which is why they are usually developed in collaboration with governments. The accuracy of mobile applications are questionable when it comes to social distancing and contact tracing, which makes it impractical to be used in smaller-scale settings like workplaces.
Contact us to find out more about our IoT COVID-19 solution Safe Steps