How Technology Can Stop the Spread of COVID-19
Modern technology has made huge improvements to our quality of life, economic efficiency, and even life expectancy. As the scientific community learns more about the telltale signs and spread patterns of COVID-19, certain technologies have emerged as viable ways to combat the spread of the disease. Although technology alone is not enough to enable us to resume all the different social activities we engaged in prior to the pandemic, the combination of safety policies and these innovative technologies are allowing many business organizations to reopen safely and responsibly. In this article, we discuss some of those technologies.
Thermal cameras use infrared light to accurately measure the temperatures of objects from afar. Hotter objects produce more infrared radiation, which is picked up by the camera. While thermal cameras do not detect COVID-19 specifically, they are effective at pinpointing individuals in a crowd who have a fever. In general, since many fevers today are a result of a coronavirus infection, thermal cameras can be a good way for workplaces and public spaces to screen individuals entering the building for symptoms of the disease. Even in a dense crowd, a well-calibrated thermal camera system can spot a single individual with an elevated forehead temperature, a telltale sign of sickness. Thermal imaging cameras can be used at the entrance to buildings, attached to cart setups or mounted like security cameras.
While nearly everyone washes their hands throughout the day nowadays, very few people take the time to clean frequently touched objects such as smartphones and tablets. These devices are home to over 25,000 bacteria per square inch, more than toilet seats, pet food bowls, kitchen counters, and doorknobs. Viruses like the coronavirus likely follow the same pattern. Since many mobile devices are not ingress-protection-rated for water resistance, cleaning with water is not an effective option. Additionally, many cleaning chemicals can harm the oleophobic coating on device screens, leading to skin oil build-up as the device is used.
UV ovens (also known as UV sterilizers) are a good solution to this problem. Unlike other options, cleaning with a UV oven does not require liquid or heat to contact the device. The UV-C light generated on the inside of UV ovens is harmful to bacteria and viruses including the coronavirus, as mentioned in this report.
Please note that UV light should not be used to disinfect skin.
Washable Input Devices
Similar to smartphones and tablets, computer keyboards and mice are frequently touched, but infrequently cleaned. Many models have nooks and crannies that can harbor viruses and bacteria. In fact, keyboards have been found to harbor more dangerous types of bacteria and larger quantities of bacterial colonies than toilet seats. While the coronavirus is caused by a virus and not a bacterium, the concept holds true: most keyboards are dirty and can potentially spread disease.
Unlike mobile devices, UV cleaning is a less effective option for keyboards, because they often do not fit into standard UV sterilizers. Additionally, keyboards and mice have more hidden crevices that the UV-C light is not able to reach.
Given that standard keyboards are not waterproof and do not stand up to many common cleaning chemicals, washable input devices are a good solution to this problem. These input devices can be sterilized with bleach and alcohol, and are fully waterproof, making cleaning easier and more effective than with traditional input devices.
Contact Tracing Apps
Even with the best technological measures and policies to curb the spread of disease, some cases may still go undetected. Governments across the world have encouraged citizens to download official contact tracing apps on their smartphones, which use a privacy preserving contact tracing system developed by Apple and Google to determine whether a user has come into contact with an infected person.
Unlike the other technologies listed above, the responsibility for contact tracing lies with government agencies, not workplaces and individuals. However, since most of these applications are opt-in, companies can encourage their employees to download and enable the apps across the entire organization.
Workplace Staging Apps
The reopening plans of many workplaces, schools, restaurants, and other public or semi-public businesses, usually involves a staged return process to prevent the congregation of large groups of people. To help in this endeavor new scheduling technologies have emerged which use the health data, travel history, and other information from employees, to group them into risk categories and determine who should return to work first. This enables business organizations to significantly reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak at the workplace. A variety of companies have created apps that include this functionality, such as Appian’s Workplace Safety and Readiness tool, which offers functionality to help in the staged reopening of many kinds of businesses.
Reopen Safely and Responsibly
While the COVID-19 has allowed many companies to realize that they can effectively operate remotely, most businesses are anxious to reopen and return to normalcy. Even though these organizations may not be able to operate the same way that they did before the pandemic, they can safely reopen by intelligently using technologies such as those mentioned above.
Outsource IT partners with the vendors of many of these technologies. We are ready and willing to help any business organization interested in utilizing them to enable a safe work environment. Contact your Outsource IT account manager to learn more.