Stopping the rate of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) is essential while allowing for more people to return to work and for other aspects of normal life to function again.
While social distancing, along with washing our hands and surfaces, will continue to be the principle ways that we can reduce transmission, technology firms and their partners, such as UK-based CCTV and access control specialist, Ecl-ips, have been developing various solutions to enforce new rules and to help in the return to work.
One of the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) is a high temperature and there are a number of CCTV and other technology firms marketing elevated body temperature (EBT) detection. However, all of these technologies need to be considered carefully.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), for example, has stated that “temperature-based screening, such as thermal imaging, is not effective at determining if someone definitively has COVID-19 because, among other things, a person with COVID-19 may not have a fever. A diagnostic test must be performed to determine if someone has COVID-19”.
The FDA adds, “Thermal imaging systems have not been shown to be accurate when used to take the temperature of multiple people at the same time. The accuracy of these systems depends on careful set-up and operation, as well as proper preparation of the person being evaluated.”
However, with this caveat, the most effective of these systems will take a person’s temperature in the canthus – or the inner corner of the eye – which is known to be the best place to get an accurate reading. These systems can provide remote monitoring using a camera as people pass screening check points set up in areas such as the entrance lobby to a building as staff return to work or as people join queues at an airport.
The EBT systems can then provide a visible alarm when an out of norm body temperature is detected. This could be the trigger for someone to move into someone in a queue and ensure they have additional screening from a healthcare professional.
Firms are also offering temperature screening terminals which work as a remote access control solution which can deny access to people with elevated body temperature as well as having a facial recognition technology so that those not wearing face masks, for example, could be denied.
Are thermal cameras part of the solution?
North American and Canadian manufacturer Avigilon, part of Motorola Solutions is now selling itsAvigilon H4 Thermal Elevated Temperature Detection solution. The thermal camera is embedded with edge-based analytics to detect faces and notify operators of elevated skin temperature. Avigilon stated that it enabled high-throughput pre-screening of people to detect elevated skin temperatures to keep facilities, and its people, safe.
Among the companies that have announced that they are already using or trialing the use of thermal cameras are Amazon, which announced that it has procured over 1,115 thermal cameras worldwide, as well as Heathrow Airport and Bournemouth Airport, which are both trialing the technology.
Monitoring solutions for occupancy counting and social distancing
Avigilon is among the CCTV firms that are marketing video surveillance-based solutions to enable social distancing. It has both developed embedded analytics within its cameras that can count numbers of people as they enter buildings. This allows for signage outside to stop more than a maximum number of people from entering and causing overcrowding, so social distancing cannot be observed. These solutions can be deployed outside supermarkets as well as outside other shops in retail parks and on the high street, which reopened in the UK from mid-June.
Avigilon has also launched additional embedded analytics within the H5A camera that will identify breaches of social distancing guidance. If these are avoidable breaches, then this system could be integrated with an audible warning to those involved.
The technology can also demonstrate to those managing commercial spaces or other buildings like schools or healthcare settings where there are potential bottlenecks as people return to work and so social distancing will be difficult. This will allow managers to make changes within the buildings, for example, by only allowing people to walk in one direction through a corridor, to reduce the numbers having to be in close proximity to each other.
Face mask or face covering detection
In the UK the wearing of face masks is mandatory for hospital staff and face coverings are compulsory for users of public transport as well as in shops, banks, post offices, takeaways and if you are a patient or visitor in hospital.
To ensure compliance with these kinds of requirements facial recognition technology has also been adapted to provide detection of when facial coverings or are not being used. When this is combined with audible warnings, for example when people enter a healthcare setting, this can generate compliance. The systems can also generate reports to provide information on the level of compliance that is being achieved.
Access control solutions: Occupancy Management and Remote Monitoring
Reducing the level of physical contact that there needs to be between people when entering buildings could be a solution for reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
UK access control manufacturer Paxton has now launched the latest upgrade of its Net2 access control software, Net2.v6.04, which includes an occupancy management feature, allowing employers or building managers to limit the number of people in any given area – either barring access or sending an email/text to the manager when a space nears capacity.
It works across multiple areas of a site and can be set to operate a one-in, one-out system to support social distancing measures. Paxton has also announced improvements to Net2 to allow integration with thermal scanners should their partner installers wish to offer them.
In the previous upgrade launched in May, Paxton added functionality that makes remote monitoring of sites safer and more effective than ever. The updated features mean you can effectively remotely manage access control across several business or other sites, such as educational campuses.
Sites can be managed via an internet browser with the Net2online product or its Paxton Connect smartphone app, which minimises the need for regular site visits. Paxton Connect, available for the iOS and Android operating systems, and Net2Online are accessible from any device with an internet connection.
Contact tracing capability
Meanwhile, Avigilon has highlighted how its Avigilon Access Control Manager (ACM) system, particularly when combined with its Avigilon Control Center (ACC) CCTV system, can provide a means of contact tracing within commercial and educational sites.
There could, for example, be an employee at a distribution centre who becomes infected and then must self-isolate. Managers or security staff at the site can use the ACM system to produce an identity correlation report which can be used to identify doors that have been used by the employee and the date and time of that access as contaminated handles could pose a risk to transmission. Following this, all other members of staff that also entered or left via those doors within the timeframe that the employee used them can be contacted.
The CCTV system can also be used to track people within the building who may have come into contact with the employee. If users also have identity search or appearance search within their ACC system, they will be able to pick out the infected employee more easily.
There is no complete solution
Businesses and other organisations looking to get more staff back to work, while ensuring their employees and customers are kept safe and follow the rules, are right to consider technological solutions. Advanced apps to help with appointment-making, as well as the huge increase in video conferencing, demonstrates that innovation is everywhere.
However, in an attempt to be able to show that they are trying to keep staff safe as they return to work, organisations need to understand that, especially with detection of the disease, there is nothing that will prove to be 100 per cent accurate. The test for coronavirus itself has shown to provide false negative results, even when the common symptoms are present.
Therefore, expensive detection systems may not be appropriate in all cases. If you do invest in them you must know what the next steps will be, for example they could be additional health screening, blocking entry or simply an audible warning.
Using CCTV technology can certainly be effective, for counting people, detecting social distancing and facial coverings but again acting on this knowledge provided is what will make the system effective.
In all cases organisations must understand that the use of CCTV cameras for any purpose need to be considered carefully in respect of data protection and privacy. To meet your GDPR requirements you must have considered if that use of CCTV is actually the best way to meet the purpose you have identified and, in all cases, clear signposting is required.
Ecl-ips is a Paxton and Avigilon partner and can provide advice on the range of solutions they can provide. It seems it is the right time to invest in technology in order to manage the risks presented by COVID-19 and the return to work but invest wisely to get the result that you really want for your organisation.