IoT.nxt develops solution to manage social distancing for retailers, offices
Many South African businesses are getting ready to restart operations from next week as a new level of lockdown regulations come into effect. But it will not be business as usual. Several requirements to adhere to guidelines aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 will be in place.
A key requirement for many businesses – from retail to office parks and other places of business – is the management of people in facilities and maintaining distancing requirements. Leading Internet of things (IOT) solutions provider, IoT.nxt, has developed a product, known as Covision, that will make it possible for companies to use technology, as opposed to manual processes, to manage social distancing and control the number of people at a facility in real-time.
"Since the introduction of social distancing requirements for varied facilities all around the world, many companies have experienced challenges with the management of this. In South Africa, a leading retailer in Cape Town was ordered to close in April as it failed to comply with lockdown regulations – notably distancing requirements – implemented by the SA government since late March this year. Most retailers have implemented a manual process, with mixed success. With Covision a retailer will know exactly what the situation is inside a store, in real-time, and manage it efficiently,” Nico Steyn, IoT.nxt CEO, explains.
Covision was developed by IoT.nxt’s product development team, led by Chief Innovation Officer, Michiel du Toit, and Tobie Alberts, Technical Evangelist, Solutions Design at IoT.nxt.
“The original idea was to see how IOT technology can be used to monitor the movement of people, vehicles and assets. While in development, COVID-19 spread to all corners of the globe and the team brainstormed how the solution they were working on can be tweaked to be useful for COVID-19 challenges,” Steyn says.
“Covision is currently being tested at various supermarkets in Pretoria and our office in The Netherlands is in discussion with a retailer in The Hague for a test site in that city. There has been interest from companies in other countries in Europe and in the USA, and from governments in those territories. We expect to roll it out to many sites in the months ahead. Furthermore, our team is currently working on a version that will allow us to manage social distancing from next week when employees return to our Centurion office. This will be the test site for the Covision solution for office buildings,” Steyn added.
According to Du Toit and Alberts, IOT solutions are all about getting data in real-time and making sense of the data. “For the retail application, a retailer does not need a lot of expensive new equipment. The IOT solution can be rolled out with a Raspberry Pi or Dell gateway and using the store's CCTV network or affordable IP cameras. Covision streams real-time video footage from the cameras, detects people and tracks their movement. The data is then anonymised and transmitted to the cloud, where it is kept for reporting and analytics. It can also (optionally) be shared with the public to help them select the best times to visit the store. Since everything is computed on the edge gateway, it uses very little data and can transmit over almost any 3G network, WiFi hotspot or LAN that is already available.”
The team is already working on other applications for Covision. These include a thermal imaging solution that can assist in identifying people with elevated body temperature/fever; and a solution that can check oxygen levels in blood with a watch type device.