Smart Technologies Make Public Spaces Safe During Pandemic
As consumers begin to return to public spaces, a new crop of smart technologies is helping to keep surfaces clean, air clear, and viruses safely away.
As vaccination rates rise and infection rates fall, consumers are beginning to venture back into public spaces and resume normal activities, including eating at restaurants, returning to school and workplaces, and traveling. New smart technologies aimed at keeping viruses away are making these activities safer.
Allied Electronics is offering Seek Scan automated thermal imaging systems, which deliver accurate, contactless skin temperature measurements using sensitive temperature sensors. In seconds, the system’s camera detects a face, identifies the most reliable facial features for measurement, conducts a heat scan, and displays an alert if someone is warmer than the customizable alarm temperature. The company has also leveraged its electronics distribution capabilities to provide janitorial kits, remote work bundles, and personal protection equipment products (PPE).
Many airports are anticipating an increase in traffic in the summer months as vaccinated consumers return to vacation habits. Still, it will be important for them to demonstrate safety protocols. London Heathrow Airport conducted a three-week trial of iAbra’s Virolens screening device, which is able to count individual active virus cells in any sample to detect the presence of COVID-19. No training is needed to administer a test and results can be delivered in 20 seconds. It consists of a digital camera, which is attached to a microscope to analyze saliva samples. Microscopic holographic imaging and artificial intelligence (AI) software analyze samples and can identify if the virus is present. The system was trained to recognize COVID-19 particles using a range of samples provided by virologists from the University of Bristol in the UK.
The system was designed and manufactured by TT Electronics, which manufactures the system at its UK facility’s Power and Connectivity division. According to the company, iAbra’s screening device has 99.8% sensitivity and 96.7% specificity, based on the results of an internal in-vitro validation study. The portable system is expected to be used in transport hubs, sports venues, workplaces, and other congregate spaces.
Automating Safety in Public Spaces
On the other side of the globe, smart, 5G-powered robots are patrolling public spaces in China to monitor mask wearing and measure body temperatures (one of the first signs of infection). The robots have been developed by Guangzhou Gosuncn Robot and use infrared thermometers to scan up to 10 people within a 5m (16ft) radius simultaneously.
Equipped with five high-resolution cameras and Advantech’s industrial UNO-2484G edge gateway computer, which leverages an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor and GPU iModule for AI training and inference, the 5G robots can also detect if someone is not wearing a mask. If someone is not wearing a mask or has a high temperature, the robot sends an alert to nearby authorities.
Essentially, this device counts the number of people in a room and monitors the room’s occupancy based on social distancing protocols. The people counter pictured here can be ordered as parts and assembled using a linked parts list and assembly instructions available on RS Components’ and Allied Electronics’ DesignSpark design engineering platform, which features software and reference libraries, educational resources, new products and technologies, and an online engineering community and is free to join. RS Components also offers a fully assembled commercial version of the new BARTH Elektronik people-counter product for use in public spaces.
Wearable Sensors Support Crowd Control and Contact Tracing
Another safety device aimed at crowd control and contact tracing in commercial and public spaces is the SafeTag by German company Kinexon, which can be worn as a wristband or in an ID holder (e.g., on a lanyard or clip) to establish a SafeZone and uses an ultra-wideband (UWB) sensor to measure both the distance and duration of contact between users with ±10cm accuracy at a rate of once per second. The tags emit visual warnings when proximity falls below the customizable distance and adds an audible warning when proximity falls below the minimum distance for longer than the customizable time. In the case of an infection, companies can trace all contact points in an analysis platform and react accordingly, quickly, and precisely using the sensor ID data, which is stored when the SafeTags are charging. In addition, unlike Bluetooth technology, the UWB sensors aren’t anonymous, don’t suffer from interference with other applications like Wi-Fi, and don’t run into the same usability issues as phone-based Bluetooth, which is prevented from running in the background on iOS and, in some Android versions, is only usable when GPS is turned on and location data is being shared with Google. As such, Kinexon claims that they’re a much more accurate and reliable contact-tracing solution.
Devices like these, combined with vaccines, will help rejuvenate consumer confidence and encourage people to feel safe when returning to the public spaces activities they’ve been missing.