LIFE IN THE NEW NORMAL: FIGHTING COVID-19 WITH COMPUTER VISION

Urgent necessity to create employee trust and boost customer confidence

After weeks of shutdowns and remote working, businesses around the world are gradually resuming on-site operations. Emerging from COVID-19 lockdown, customers are more vigilant about health and increase their demands on safety. Many employees are eager to return to work but many are also worried about being able to do so safely and avoid the second wave of infections.

As businesses step into the new normal shaped by discussions of unemployment, racism, health, and wellness for all, they are starting to realize that “business as usual” is no longer tolerated or desired. In the post-corona virus future, all businesses have to find the delicate balance between what worked in the past and the expectations of the new normal. Businesses across the globe would NEED TO implement products and services that adhere to the most rigorous health and safety conditions, across the full range of activities associated with their operations.

Vendors are rushing to provide various untested and unproven workplace coronavirus contact tracing technology to the market. In a novel-virus-induced pandemic, experimenting with untested medical inventions (such as contact tracing using invasive apps, wifi signals, or sharing business contact databases) without adequate safeguards could be dangerous, in case it turns out to have nasty side-effects. With high-tech software, caution is as valuable as it is with pills and potions.

Now let's imagine this…

Imagine opening up your company app and seeing a big bold number on the home screen of the app. This number tells you the number of people (occupancy) already at your business-office premises, suggesting that you stay away until the office is less occupied. Imagine additional information like the distance between individuals (social distancing index) at the office and also the number of people who are wearing facemasks (or not). Now extend this to your favorite shopping destination, restaurants, hospitals, and other physical locations and you have the picture.

Fighting COVID-19 with Collective Intelligence

The use of novel technologies does not build trust and safety. As we move forward into an uncertain workplace, the role of business leaders will shift from managing talent to inspiring and engaging people and providing the right toolset to build safety and mutual trust. We believe that worldwide HR and Facility management leaders need a new alternative or at worst a better complementary toolset to what is existing. Leadership will be tested and leaders must prepare for this shift.

At RealValue, we are using Collective Intelligence (human + artificial intelligence) to define and implement protocols for entry-exits-occupancy-PPE-detection into business premises. We have been busy building an AI-powered visual intelligence platform for some time now. The COVID-19 pandemic just made it more relevant than ever. Few of the powerful technology solutions from RealValue that we believe will help in measuring these rules and thereby enable opening up businesses with confidence are

** Detection of Face Masks / other PPEs **

The Royal Society of Britain declared recently that masks “could be an important tool for managing community transmission”. This is not so much because they protect the wearer — the normal reason people may put them on in times of pestilence — but rather because they stop the wearer infecting others.

Individuals not following hygiene protocols set at different businesses around the use of protective face masks can be detected using our AI-enabled edge intelligence solutions — on fixed security cameras and android-based digital kiosks.

Our advanced AI-based detection technology is able to accurately detect objects in the camera’s field of view, classify them as humans, and determine whether the subject is wearing a mask (or not).

We won the #EUvsVirus hackathon challenge in April by demonstrating how our face-mask-detection technology can be used to open sensor-driven gates or notify security or operations teams. Our technology will support the conscious efforts of government and public health officials for wearing personal protective equipment.

Check out our website for more.

** Determination of Social Distancing Index **

Every municipality and physical businesses are eager to implement social distancing measures. Every part of office life is being re-examined in the era of COVID-19. When employees file back into their workplaces — many wearing masks — they will find the office transformed and new policies being put in place to ensure safety and hygiene.

For the safety of people working at various business premises — warehouses, healthcare clinics, and hospitals, and for any businesses looking for ways to be compliant with hygiene and safety regulations, RealValue visual intelligence can automatically detect, alert, and report social distancing data derived from existing security cameras. The AI monitors when the distance between two or more individuals falls under the recommended threshold and for how long and then shows that data nicely on a smart dashboard.

Facility operators can study traffic patterns, identify hotspots, and make adjustments based on their understanding of compliance levels. They can then use this data to further protect staff and customers by taking corrective action to educate employees, modify facility layouts, and eliminate high-density areas.

** Occupancy Counting **

Though the impact of COVID-19 is slowly fading in the EU, we see increasing numbers in other parts of the world. Many countries, due to unsustainable economic pressure, have removed all quarantine restrictions; borders and businesses are reopening everywhere eager to return to normalcy. It’s easy to forget that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, till we see that those same places are now re-closing — they didn’t figure out a way to know and report on Occupancy inside their premises putting the lives of their employees and customers at risk.

Occupancy has always been an important safety metric, now it has become even more critical as it allows to manage traffic density by proxy. Our visual intelligence platform can be easily integrated with any security cameras and NVR to record traffic (ins/outs) and thereby understand the overall occupancy of the business premises with great accuracy. When coupled with the Social Distancing Index and Face Mask Detection, the solution suite provides the essential peace of mind for businesses in these times of uncertainty. Further, the occupancy data can easily be integrated into multiple other applications through API, allowing necessary stakeholders to check the live traffic numbers.

Imagine a food processing plant putting in strict policies for every employee to wear protective facemasks in any part of the facility except for the lunchroom. In this scenario, the Face Mask Detection + Social Distancing Index + Occupancy enables employee compliance across the working areas depending on the presence of cameras, etc. In the lunchroom, the face masks are removed but the facility wants to be sure of the social distancing norms being still followed. Any violation of the policies can be notified to the Facility Manager who can either take immediate action if necessary or share findings with the leadership team so they can take corrective measures such as reinforcing rules with more education and training.

Conclusion

Work environments differ vastly from each other, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Proximity and duration of exposure vary across different businesses — the human interaction that we witness in airports, gyms, hotels is not the same that we expect to see at a school, day-care, or research lab (McKinsey). In addition, businesses will need to implement safety measures across the full range of activities associated with their operations, including activities that take place outside the work environment. Businesses must also define protocols and policies for pre-entry, travel to and from work locations, use of common spaces, and post-infection.

Technology is not the proverbial panacea and should not be seen as the silver bullet. The pandemic has taken everyone by surprise and this is the time for business leaders across HR, Digital Transformation, and Facility Management to come together and put together a protocol that works for all employees and customers.

The rise of computer vision has opened up important questions about privacy and individual rights; our visual intelligence platform does not recognize individuals, and we urge anyone using such a system to do so with transparency and only with informed consent.

Polymath: dad, husband, co-founder, strategist, Computer Vision enthusiast, visual thinker and dog lover.

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