We’ve all heard it already, “stay at least 6 ft. from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor environments” to curb the spread of coronavirus. This practice of social distancing combined with the act of wearing a mask has been one of the most effective measures in a battle against COVID-19. Given that COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close proximity (within 6 ft.) for a long time, it’s one of those steps that should currently stay on top of everyone’s must-do list (even as we are supposably slowly getting back to normalcy).
But, this new ‘culture’ of face masks and social distancing is still very new to people and it’s common to see people falter when it comes to practicing these instructions to a tee. This is why technology-driven products and innovations have become an important part of everyone’s plan to mitigate coronavirus We’ve witnessed a slew of different ways companies are implementing social distancing efforts and using tech, so let’s dig deeper into some of these.
Who would have thought that these simple little machine scannable images would play such a pivotal role during pandemic? Less physical contact with objects or other people means fewer chances of getting infected. Since QR codes can be easily accessed by anyone with a smartphone and can store massive amounts of data, they were widely adopted in 2020 by businesses around the world to reduce physical contact. Add to this the fact that QR codes can be easily placed anywhere and serve a multitude of purposes. They can be used pamphlets, menu cards, financial transactions, registrations, and more.
A slew of restaurants including the popular American fast food company, McDonald’s adopted the ‘contactless ordering’ approach. To help their customers avoid long queues, traditional reusable menu cards, and to promote convenient ordering, QR codes have reigned supreme. All that customers have to do is scan the QR code, which lets them access the menu card and even make the payments online. Another way QR codes are being used is for contactless information sharing. Many companies are now using QR codes to provide information about their new campaign or product instead of using pamphlets or business cards.
Smartphone Apps And Contact Tracing
While the Aarogya Setu app is the only centralized contact tracing app in India, several companies came out with their own contact tracing apps in 2020 to implement social distancing within their employees. For the uninitiated, a mobile contact-tracing app helps keep track of people who may have been in proximity or contact with an infected person. Once tracked, the app alerts all the affected individuals when one of them turns out to be COVID-19 positive. This is a great way to prevent any possible spread of infection among people. Apple and Google also already partnered on a Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform.
Apart from contact tracing apps, there have also been a slew of other apps developed to track COVID-19 and curb its spread. Municipal Corporations in Maharashtra adopted the use of mobile phone apps earlier this year such as Coviguard and Covicare, which were designed with the support of the Directorate of Industries. Similarly, many startups and companies came out with a ‘Covid-19 symptom’ tracking app that helps people track symptoms related to Coronavirus by taking different factors into account.
Apple also launched a COVID-19 website and app with a screening tool for COVID-19. Another app ‘OnSafe’ has been developed by Compass India specifically for workplaces to enable the implementation of social distancing protocols with real-time tracking at the workplace. It helps prevent crowding in the office spaces and allows organizations to redesign spaces in a manner that is safe.
Artificial Intelligence And Robots
It would be remiss of us to talk about technology being a pillar of support during COVID-19 and not talk about automated machines and robots. Drones saw widespread adoption across the world in 2020 where they were being heavily used to deliver food, medicines, and even for disinfecting areas amid the pandemic. Given that drones don’t require any human contact and are also faster than manual processes, they helped implement social distancing efforts in an efficient manner.
Coming to AI-powered solutions, Wobot Intelligence, an AI-driven computer vision SaaS venture came out with a hygiene tracking tool that can be plugged into existing cameras. When connected to an existing CCTV or camera, the solution helps monitor 20 second-hand wash, social distancing compliance, and premise cleaning/sanitation activities.
Similarly, a team of officers of the Indian Telecommunication Service (ITS) came out with DRISHTI (Digital Real-Time Artificial Intelligence System for maintaining Social Distancing with Timely Intervention), an AI-based system having Tri-Netras (three digital eyes). It helps in three ways – detecting social distancing violations, Face Mask related violations, and checking the total number of people present at a public place to restrict mass gatherings.
Another way companies are driving social distancing efforts in 2020 is by using wearables. Many companies released wristbands this year that also come with a feature to alert an employee if he/she comes too physically close to another person within the workplace. This is helping companies adhere to social distancing rules that are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection. This alert via wearables is usually sent in the form of an alarm, a vibrating buzzer, or LED light.
Summing it up, the Coronavirus pandemic has been a big unprecedented shock to everyone. While it’s going to take time to achieve normalcy again, innovators and researchers continue to rise to the occasion and are successfully meeting the demands of a changing workplace. 2020 was the start of all social-distancing-focused tech and innovation, and we’ll be witnessing more of these advancements in 2021.