With each passing day, it just gets a little crazier as a result of COVID-19. As each day goes by, I hear about another person who has contracted COVID-19, or sadly, someone else who knows someone who has passed as a result. It’s just a crazy time right now. And all I can hope is that we are getting closer to seeing an end to this pandemic.
Obviously, it’s a stressful time and a lot of terrible things are happening. But I also want to acknowledge that so many people are stepping up and being kind to one another. In times of crisis, it restores my faith in humanity to see neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers performing acts of kindness. People are doing their best to help each other as much as they can, from a distance, of course, in this case. Every individual who is doing their part should be commended for doing whatever it takes to help end this pandemic.
And to each of you out there who is doing your part and staying home and showing acts of kindness where you can; you should be applauded as well. Staying home for weeks on end certainly hasn’t been easy.
But with each passing day, we have to start focusing on getting back to business. We have figured out how to live with our families and work side-by-side, now is the time to reassess our business strategies and hunker down to help revitalize the world around us. And that means at some point we will all get back to business as usual.
So, what will business as usual really look like when we get back to the hustle and bustle of planes, trains, and subways? I decided to look at a handful of solutions that popped up in my inbox and they got me thinking about how advances in biometrics technologies could potentially help us in future pandemics. In fact, some are helping us right now.
We should all be familiar with the physical signs of the Novel Coronavirus infection or COVID-19. We’re on the lookout for fever, a dry cough, and respiratory distress.
In countries like China, one tactic the government took to flatten the curve was to monitor people’s temperature using handheld non-contact infrared thermometers or “temperature guns” as they entered buildings.
There have even been reports of railway station employees using ear thermometers to check everyone for a fever before they were allowed to pass through the station gates.
While the news out of China is that things may be settling down in terms of new COVID-19 cases, precautions are still very much in place all around the country. In some major Chinese cities like Wuhan, they are now using thermal scanners at train stations.
These scanners leverage AI (artificial intelligence) and big data to scan people for elevated body temperatures as they pass through the station gates.
A Chinese AI company, called MEGVII, which is headquartered in Beijing reported as early as February that it was developing an even more sophisticated, AI-enabled temperature-detection solution that integrates facial recognition. This company has a vision that it wants to, “build the AI infrastructure to connect and empower tens of billions of IoT (Internet of Things) devices.” All of this thinking is based on a belief of technology and pragmatism. You can’t help but like the three founders’ enthusiasm for bringing IoT and AI together.
Another company working on this problem is Kogniz Health, which has its offices in San Francisco, Calif., and Montreal, Canada. Kogniz Health cameras make it possible to autonomously monitor the temperatures of high volumes of people, as they move. If you didn’t already get the play on the name, Rekognize, “patterns before they’re problems.” The company does this in realtime and streams live data to the display, the app, and the web interface. With this solution, it is really surveilling people, things, and activities in realtime.
As I see it, every time we talk about IoT solutions, we have to talk about how the solution not only collects data, but also makes data actionable. In this case, an autonomous temperature monitoring system like what we have talked about here can flag a person with a high temperature and then use facial recognition technology, for instance, to keep track of that person, staff will be alerted and the person quarantined.
The system will also be able to keep track of other people the feverish person came in contact with. Just think about how this will change large venue gatherings like sporting events, trades shows, and concerts.
So the more often the IoT can be deployed in smart ways it limits a humans’ need to put themselves in danger.
If we go back to the good ‘ole days, we used to talk about M2M (machine-to-machine) technology and how sensors were being placed on oil rigs, wind turbines, in mines, and other places humans don’t really want to be where things can go south. Sensors can monitor situations for us and let us know when there is a need to step in.
That’s exactly what we’re doing here. We’re thinking and talking about ways to leverage the IoT to keep humans from needing to interact when they don’t have to.
Something else that’s happening right now has to do with companies expanding their solutions’ capabilities to help address needs specific to this pandemic.
As soon as this pandemic started rearing its ugly head, many companies pivoted operations completely and started focusing on building prototypes that could be added to their existing solution. Many firms are now offering modules, apps, and even products to customers that want to be able to detect individuals with fevers, or masks, or ventilators, you name it, all in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
President Trump has been giving a lot of company’s airtime every day for stepping up. That’s wonderful. But we all know many companies that are in the IoT space, that are doing wonderful things, have not earned public recognition.
I focused on just a few companies in this column, but there are so many more IoT companies doing their part. There are so many other ways the IoT can help address issues associated with this pandemic.
What have you seen or heard of? We are all in this together so we should share and enlighten each other. If you know of a company doing amazing things, reach out. The IoT didn’t prevent the outbreak, and it can’t stop it—but it can help. With technology, human kindness, and human ingenuity, we will see much better days.
Click here to read more blogs.