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Tech Takes on COVID-19

What will workplaces look like as they begin to reopen from the coronavirus? Will contact tracing with smartphones locate, track and report potential carriers? Will temperature and fever detection become required to gain access to a facility or enterprise? Will prescreening and validation processes be a prerequisite to on-site visits?

Security risk assessments will now include pandemics, viruses and diseases as another required element in premises protection. According to health experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and authors of an article on the importance of emerging new technologies as weapons against future pandemics, the potential for diseases will remain ongoing.

With businesses phasing in return-to-work strategies and slowly ramping up operations, there’s a redefined vision with COVID-19 as a constant backdrop. Back-to-work beckons, but since the virus isn’t eradicated, defending the workforce means protecting employees, visitors and contractors from contagions, leveraging the latest intelligent digital technologies.

The future of work

The future of work looks different, with new players coming in with potentially viable solutions. In April, Apple and Google announced their partnership in a new contact tracing technology used to track positive cases of viruses such as COVID-19 and designed to slow spread of the disease. According to a news release issued by Apple on April 10, “Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.”

The technology is opt-in, and plans are for the Apple/Google solution to include application programming interfaces (APIs) and software operating technology to assist in system deployment. According to the Apple news statement, both companies are set to release APIs in May that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices.

Other technologies and solutions are taking a broader brushstroke to the pandemic. With the number of screened passenger check-ins at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints dropping some 90%, airlines are looking for safe ways to bring travelers back to the skies. Recently, the trade group representing airlines, Airlines for America, said it would support fever checks for passengers and employees conducted by TSA.

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus announced plans to use a device built by bio-tech company Koniku Inc. that uses living biological cells to sense dangerous chemicals and bombs at airports. This might also be useful in detecting contagious viruses such as COVID-19. Amazon has built a roving robot covered in UV lights that could kill the coronavirus in a warehouse or other large space. Other potentially useful technologies include anti-microbial products that resist and prevent germs on hard surfaces and virus detection ionizer systems that eradicate contaminants.

One of the more traditional physical security technologies making a significant impact is thermal imaging, which may effectively identify elevated body temperatures. FLIR Systems Inc. recently announced a thermal smart sensor and thermal image streaming fixed camera solution for monitoring equipment, production lines, critical infrastructure and screening for elevated skin temperatures. It offers multi-image streaming, edge computing and Wi-Fi connectivity to quickly transmit data and aid in decision making.

Touch-free access control

Touchless access control with proximity sensors and the ability for users to wave a device, card or even their hand near a data collection point are seeing a resurgence in interest. Assa Abloy offers a range of solutions designed to “reduce potential touchpoints on highly trafficked openings with hands-free hardware products.”

Companies will also need social and physical distancing measures in place and document compliance. Genetec Inc., a provider of unified security, public safety, operations and business intelligence solutions announced the development of an occupancy management package. The solution includes analytics and reporting tools so organizations can count occupants in a store or area, visualize data and alert employees when occupancy thresholds are nearing. Audit reports provide recordkeeping to meet regulations and compliance mandates.

Rob Borsch, practice leader¾retail and banking at Genetec said that in order to enforce strict occupancy rules, users will need to do more than just count the number of people entering their premises. “They will need to know how many people are inside a store or restaurant at any given moment, continuously monitor this data and be able to take action when thresholds are reached."

As corporations put reentry plans in place, both security contractors and their customers need to carefully evaluate new technology, focusing on quality, privacy, security and standards. For physical security contractors, do your research and due diligence before specifying any solution. Work closely with the manufacturer to determine if their potential solution will meet the needs of your customer and if there will be ongoing support available. Remember the guiding principal of security¾it’s never one technology but layers that ultimately provide the most risk-free and safe solution¾even in these uncommon times.

About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer

Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at dlocommunications@gmail.com...

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