Social distancing is a new phrase that’s entered our vocabulary in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s become important to flattening the curve of COVID-19 infections and exiting the lockdown. How can organizations encourage or even enforce social distancing?

Having assigned staff run around your offices, stores, warehouses, and manufacturing facilities admonishing employees, customers, and suppliers to stand further apart is hardly a workable solution. Similarly, having police or public health staff run around public parks, streets, bus, and train stations glaring at citizens won’t be well received or sufficiently successful either. Installing more signs on walls or doors and decals on sidewalks or floors is also of limited effectiveness.

Various hardware and software solutions have sprung up to help private and public organizations improve the monitoring of social distancing, protect people and focus attention just on specific areas where a social distancing problem is occurring. Here’s an overview.

Wi-Fi monitoring

Some vendors provide additional software for their Wi-Fi communication systems that monitors the distance between individuals, the volume of people, their movement and elapsed time spent within the site of interest. It displays the results on a map on the workstation of a site supervisor. The map can also be displayed at the site being monitored. When one or more of the limits have been breached, the system displays an alert.

Chris Bruce, Managing Director of GlobalReach Technology said: “All our Wi-Fi customers are keen to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their priority is to ensure that their staff, customers, and the public are confident that safety measures are in place. Using the existing Wi-Fi networks, to proactively protect everyone, is a smart, fast and cost-effective way to build confidence.”

GlobalReach

Advantages

The major advantages of Wi-Fi monitoring include:

  1. Requires no additional hardware installation in the area being monitored if a Wi-Fi communication system is already in place.
  2. Requires no app or wearable sensor to be acquired, implemented, and managed for the individuals being monitored.
  3. Protects individual privacy because the location data being collected is anonymous.
  4. Continues to work in poor weather, at night or lighting failure situations.

Disadvantages

The major disadvantages of Wi-Fi monitoring include:

  1. Doesn’t identify individuals. This ability is often a requirement in a private setting.
  2. Doesn’t notify individuals directly when there’s a breach of the minimum distance.
  3. Isn’t aware of individuals without a smartphone or with one that has been powered off or one where the Wi-Fi has been turned off.

Example vendor

GlobalReach Technology Crowd Insights

Video monitoring

Some vendors provide additional software for their video monitoring systems that analyzes the distance between individuals. It displays a blinking rectangle around the images of individuals on the video display of the site on the workstation of a site supervisor when the minimum social distancing limit has been breached.

SmartVid.io

Advantages

The major advantages of video monitoring include:

  1. Identifies individuals through face recognition. In some public settings, this can be a privacy violation.
  2. Requires no additional hardware installation in the area being monitored if a video monitoring system is already in place.
  3. Requires no app or wearable sensor to be acquired, implemented, and managed for the individuals being monitored.

Disadvantages

The major disadvantages of video monitoring include:

  1. Can’t see individuals in blind spots when equipment or material is moving around the site.
  2. Doesn’t notify individuals directly when there’s a breach of the minimum distance.
  3. Doesn’t work when there is a low light or a lighting failure.

Example vendor

SmartVid.io Safety Suite

Wearable sensor monitoring

Several vendors offer wearable sensors that sound an alarm, provide a visual cue, or send a text message to notify the involved individuals and a site supervisor when the minimum social distancing limit has been breached. Sometimes associated management software can display a map on the workstation of a site supervisor showing a circle for each person at their location.
Some more sophisticated systems use a Wi-Fi communication system to display a map on the workstation of a site supervisor showing a circle for each individual. When the circles overlap, the minimum social distancing limit has been breached.

Triax Technologies

Advantages

The major advantages of wearable sensor monitoring include:

  1. Identifies individuals based on identifier of assigned sensor, not face recognition.
  2. Can identify individuals everywhere – behind walls, in confined spaces, near equipment or moving material.
  3. Notifies individuals immediately when there’s a breach of the minimum distance.
  4. Some systems do not require a Wi-Fi communication system or Internet access.
  5. Continues to work in poor weather, at night or lighting failure situations.

Disadvantages

The major disadvantages of wearable sensor monitoring include:

  1. Can’t be used in a public setting because there’s no way to assign wearable sensors.
  2. Requires an app or a wearable sensor to be acquired, implemented, and managed for the individuals being monitored.
  3. Requires the app or wearable sensor to be turned on and working.
  4. Often more costly to acquire, implement and operate than the other alternatives but offers more functionality.

Example vendor

Triax Technologies Proximity Trace

What strategies would you recommend that will increase compliance with social distancing expectations? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada


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