Post-Pandemic Tech is All the Rage These Days
The first year of COVID-19 restrictions was about hunkering down and staying safe. Year 2 is about opening back up again, while still staying as safe as possible. That’s where post-pandemic technology swoops in to save our butts.
That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Get people back to work and our economy back on track, without putting our most vulnerable at risk. There’s no doubt we’re collectively relying heavily on post-pandemic technology to enable this return to the new normal.
Minimum contact check-in kiosks, temperature screening, proximity sensors, tracing apps, social distancing aids, connected devices, and other smart products abound. There are a lot of potential tech solutions to working in a post-COVID environment. However, as many of these technologies are fairly new, or at least newly applied to this challenge, there are concerns that need to be addressed to make sure we do this “new normal” right.
Factor 1: What do we do about tracking visitors post-pandemic?
We’ve seen a lot of products aimed at screening, testing, and tracing employees. This is incredibly important, as there are lots of workers who simply cannot work from home.
However, there is a population we don’t see addressed quite so much: visitors. All those people who don’t necessarily need a daily solution includes visitors at office buildings, patients, students, guests at hotels, customers in stores, and clients at offices. These folks need to be screened and potentially traced as well. This is for the wellbeing of both those “temporary” individuals and the staff that work in those establishments.
Solution: COVID-19 Solutions for Employees and Visitors
Employees don’t normally have to sign in to a building every day, since there are digital records and badges that show who they are. Visitors, however, do often have to check in, whether digitally or manually, to receive their badge and enter the premise.
Beyond visitors, there are clinics and hospitals with patients who need to check in for an appointment or an outpatient treatment. Universities and training programs have students. Offices have clients. Businesses have customers. Ideally, if you are investing in post-pandemic technology like a minimum-contact check-in kiosk or thermal scanning system, it will work quickly and smoothly for employees and effectively for visitors, students, and patients.
We tackled this by enabling different kinds of users, from the very beginning. Repeat users, like employees and students can prepare ahead of time through the app. They, as well as patients and visitors who know they have appointments, can check-in using a QR code, shortening the process considerably.
Factor 2: Let’s keep our masks on for the thermal scan, please.
Thermal screening isn’t going to tell us if someone has COVID-19, but it is a filter that will exclude those likely to have the virus. However, thermal screening that relies on seeing the face often has problems scanning people who wear hats, glasses, and masks.
For obvious reasons, we shouldn’t be asking people to take off their masks in public spaces.
Solution: Thermal Screening of Other Body Parts
We recently had this same problem with our near-touchless kiosk. We switched our thermal face scanner to a thermal wrist scanner, so that people can keep their masks, glasses, and winter gear on while they measure their temperature. Aside from minimizing risk by letting everyone keep their masks on, it speeds up the check-in process. Other body parts that can be scanned for temperature are the neck and the palm of the hand.
Factor 3: What happens if the virus slips through the worksite’s defenses?
Different cities, counties, and states have different contingency plans for COVID-19 outbreaks within private spaces like office buildings, clinics, and universities. The worst case scenario is that a whole company or building will have to shut down and quarantine before operations can be opened up again.
Another fear is that people might blame or even sue companies for their infection, whether or not it is true. No one wants a lawsuit. Post-pandemic technology can help with this specific problem.
Solution: Digital Records of Contact Tracing
The benefit of a digital check-in system is that you can tell exactly who has entered your establishment on any particular day or time range. Combined with contact tracing like the Valynce wearable sensor, you can tell who has had close contact with whom.
If one person tests positive for COVID-19, you can first see if they were in your building or worksite during the time when they were likely to have been infected. You can also see if they were there while infectious, as well as anyone else who was there as well and in risk. Combined with a tracing system, you can pinpoint specifically who was at risk, avoiding potentially shutting down the whole building.
Factor 4: We’re sharing lots of information- Will my data be safe?
These post-pandemic tech solutions allowing people to get back to work also include a lot of personal information. Touchless kiosks usually include cameras for identification or thermal screening purposes, often with facial recognition. Tracing devices can potentially become tracking devices as well.
People were already worried about the privacy and security of their data. For the good of the economy and population health, we want people to comply with all necessary measures and protections. For that reason alone, we want to make sure the data we’re asking people to share with us stay safe.
Solution: Data Security and Privacy
The first part of the solution is to only collect the data you absolutely need. For example, our face capture recognizes faces in order to take the resulting image. However, it does not identify the person in the picture. Likewise, wearable social distancing sensors can use Bluetooth to identify when within close proximity to someone else with the sensor, without using GPS to track specific location.
The second solution is to ensure high levels of security for the data that is collected, same as any computer or wearable device.
Factor 5: Let’s not make COVID-19 protocols harder than they need to be
It’s not always easy getting people to try new trends and products. COVID-19 tech solutions need to have a good UX or people will decide they’re too much trouble to be worth it.
This refers to the usability and dashboard of devices, kiosks, and screening. This also refers to the simple attractiveness of wearables, like tracing devices. Ask people to wear a bulky, unattractive proximity/tracing sensor and they’ll grumble and ditch as soon as possible.
Solution: Attractive and/or Hidden Wearables
The solution here is simple. Design your wearable to be subtle and/or concealed like this inconspicuous proximity sensor.
Factor 6: What are we going to do with all these devices and tech after the pandemic is over?
The explosion of post-pandemic tech solutions helping industries start up and companies open up for business is great. But what about after COVID-19 is no longer the urgent crisis it is now? Will all those devices become unnecessary and obsolete? What will happen with the investment companies have put into compliance products?
Solution: Technology That Can Be Repurposed
Different kinds of products will have different potential uses. Our minimum-contact check-in kiosk works great to reduce infection risk while checking in. However, it can be used to streamline check-ins, even in a normal, post-post-COVID world. Managing visitors digitally, from a central location, is extremely useful for improving visitor experience and generating reports. Having a lobby that can function, even without an in-person receptionist cuts down on expenses and delays as well.
As far as the wearable tracing devices, they’re basically a wearable sensor. When proximity sensing is no longer the goal, they could be reworked to sense gas, temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. If you’re looking for products to ease your staff, visitors, and students into the New Normal, look into the other benefits they’ll be able to give you once the crisis is over.
We need this post-pandemic tech to help us get back to work post COVID-19
There’s no doubt about it. We need worksites to be operational and companies to be open-for-business. We need people to be able to work, study, and visit when they need to. Post-pandemic technology helps us get there.
Let’s just make sure we’re doing it right.
We don’t build tech just for the sake of building tech. We use technology to solve problems and make people’s lives better. Part of the process is challenging, questioning, and reworking when necessary.
That’s how we make solutions that will have lasting effects, and, in this case, save lives.