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Companies race to roll out IOT-based COVID-19 screening apps

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 04 Jun 2020

Internet of things (IOT) technology is playing a crucial role in helping organisations curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), with SA witnessing a slew of new Web and mobile applications introduced to facilitate screening, monitoring and employee management processes.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to have an unprecedented impact on SA’s society and economy, more healthcare and technology companies are racing to roll out smart, connected devices. These leverage IOT and data analytics to collect and store data to help firms with better decision-making in efforts to comply with health and safety requirements, in line with safety workplace regulations set out by government.

As relaxed lockdown phases are introduced in SA, the employment and labour ministry announced last month that all organisations must screen employees for symptoms of COVID-19 when they report for work, for early detection purposes and to prevent the transmission of the virus in the workplace.

With millions of South Africans returning to work this week, local organisations are turning to the use of smart IOT devices to help monitor and manage employee processes, including track and trace tools, wearable monitoring devices, remote asset monitoring systems, location access control technologies and COVID-19 screening devices integrated into dashboards and enterprise resource planning systems.

In SA, 37 525 cases of the virus and 792 deaths had been recorded by this morning.

The increasing use of smart technology to deal with the “new norm” is paving a way to help people co-exist with the virus, as experts predict COVID-19 will be around for the next 24 months.

Last month, Vodacom introduced a suite of IOT solutions designed to augment organisations’ existing screening processes, guided by data analytics and delivered as a platform that can be integrated into existing infrastructure.

The solutions include artificial intelligence-based thermal cameras, and thermal scanners which are used to detect persons with raised body temperatures, as they enter a specific area or building.

The global IOT market is expected to grow from $150 billion in 2019 to $243 billion by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 13.7%, according to research firm MarketsandMarkets.

The major factors driving market growth include increasing focus on remote monitoring for the work from home initiative amid the COVID-19 crisis, growing adoption of smart payment technologies to minimise human contact involved in cash payments, and rising demand for wearable devices, notes the report.

GlobalData Healthcare says the use of wearable devices in a bid to combat COVID-19 has been rampant, as wearable tech increasingly plays a vital role in predicting certain diseases by combining essential vital signs with clinical symptomology.

Apple and Alphabet’s newly launched IOT contact-tracing technology has already garnered interest from health departments across the globe. The Bluetooth-enabled application stores data on people’s phones and when a user tests positive for COVID-19, the system is able to send a notification to anyone who was recently in contact with them.

Other companies that have in the past two months introduced screening and monitoring solutions to help businesses comply with lockdown protocols include ICT solutions company Granule Holdings, cashless payments solutions provider Howler and tech solutions provider 4Sight AccTech.

This week, several tech firms introduced workplace applications that rely heavily on the use of data analytics and advanced technologies to facilitate early diagnosis to prevent and control the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Ericsson, Sony Network Communications Europe and Telenor Connexion collaborated to introduce intelligent tracking and monitoring solutions to help healthcare workers increase mobility and improve operation efficiency. Sony Network Communications Europe developed IOT cellular platforms such as Visilion and mSafety, to provide cellular connectivity and wearable tracking devices for employees.

Using Telenor Connexion's network, Ericsson has developed the IOT Accelerator, a device management platform providing enterprises of different sectors with a unified solution that manages IOT operations of any scale, using worldwide mobile network infrastructure.

Workforce screening and visitor management solutions firm WizzPass has multi-functional automated software solutions for contact tracing, auditing and compliance purposes. These entail a mobile-enabled self-screening system, contactless check-in tools, including a handheld scanner, a check-in tablet, and a touchless reception dashboard. All COVID-19 screening results can be viewed in real-time via the WizzPass dashboard.

United Nations agency, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, has gone live with a new COVID-19 self-diagnostic application and predictive modelling dashboard to help South African organisations, government and individuals self-assess their COVID-19 symptomsand aid government efforts to pinpoint virus hotspots. The system uses data analytics to assist authorities to identify communities with a high prevalence of COVID-19 symptoms via the dashboard.

People management solutions company PRP Solutions has launched a range of integrated solutions to help local organisations with screening, contact tracing and employee management processes. The suite features the PRP Buzz screening app, Bee Series employee communications hardware devices and bulk communications software services.

IOT smart solutions firm Macrocomm Group developed temperature monitoring, smart thermal and facial recognition cameras integrated into existing access control, time and attendance systems. The smart solutions give users access to detailed customisable analytics and reporting.

Tech solutions firm A-Solutions introduced a thermal scanning solution that provides body temperature measurements to assist public and private facilities to maintain social distancing protocols. The thermal scanner uses deep-learning AI to perform non-contact temperature measurement, enforce social distancing and prevent congestion as it scans multiple bodies at the same time.

Testing, inspection and certification services company Bureau Veritasdeveloped“Restart Your Business with BV”, a digital platform offering a suite of monitoring solutions enhanced by a digital ecosystem in the workplace. The technology is designed to reduce workplace risks by using operational assistance tools that help to conduct remote audits prior to using an office space. Audit results are gathered in a central repository where the data will be made available on a public Web site.

Digital banking start-up Ukheshe introduced a track and trace alert system using its existing payment ecosystem to assist organisations and consumers to manage any possible risk factors in level three lockdown. Registered users are able to check-in using the Ukheshe app or via WhatsApp at any business displaying the company’s Masterpass QR code, and will be updated on any COVID-19 infections in the vicinity.