As several tech enterprises and governments build contact tracing systems to track and stymie the spread of Covid-19, some companies are embracing this technology to monitor their employees’ health. By surveilling employees and keeping a watchful eye on the potential spread of Covid-19 within their premises, they can notify staff in a timely manner if they have been in contact with an infected colleague.
Although most of these apps leverage location analytics for its functionality — raising valid privacy concerns — they can help ease the pressure off businesses as they slowly transition back to the workplace.
PwC’s Automatic Contact Tracing app
Joining major tech companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, PwC is reportedly working on a contact tracing app to track the spread of coronavirus among its employees once it reopens its offices. According to an FT report, the company has been developing a solution that combines the Bluetooth and WiFi functions of an employee’s phone to track how they interact with colleagues.
How does the app propose to work?
As per a report, on being informed about an infection, HR would enter their information into the app, “and within seconds”, it would trace all the people the infected employee had been in contact within the office. Following this, appropriate measures would be taken to isolate employees to further curb the spread of the virus.
Furthermore, it would also label the cases as high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk, calculating the accuracy based on time and distance. Slated to release soon, a PwC representative strongly feels that companies should make it mandatory for real and widespread impact.
IBM’s Location Reminder
Tech giant IBM has reportedly directed its efforts towards building an app that aims to track the location of its employees as a voluntary measure to stymie the spread of Covid-19. As per a Protocol interview conducted with IBM’s Executive VP John Kelly III, the company has already piloted the app in India.
If employees choose to use the app, they will allow IBM to monitor their whereabouts for the last 16 days. Data will be drawn on the 17th day, which can be analysed to understand if the employee or others around them may be potentially infected. Terming it a ‘location reminder’ and not a tracker, the company insists that it does not track employees forever and that it only keeps a record of their location for the last 16 days.
The larger idea behind this location-based tracking initiative is to automate the process of identifying people who may have come in contact with an infected person. Since this exercise is mostly conducted manually, a technological intervention like this not only saves valuable time but could also potentially save lives and help curb the spread of the virus.
Companies Building Tracking Apps For Private Firms
Two companies — Silicon Valley-based Locix and Pennsylvania-based Microshare — are building apps for firms to enable them to keep track of employees who may be infected. Some of its features would allow employers to retrace the steps of infected employees and document colleagues they had interacted with.
These firms could use this information to authorise appropriate quarantining and isolation measures, as well as deep clean areas handled by the chain of possibly infected employees.
Image Source: DailyMail
According to a report, Locix has been offering an array of services to businesses, including one that provides an ‘accurate and real-time location’ of workers using WiFi. Although little is known about the specific features of the product, the report quoted above states that it uses heat maps to retrace the steps of an infected employee.
Another company, Microshare, has also developed its own system called ‘Universal Contact Tracing’ to track the movements of employees. However, instead of phones, it relies on employees wearing certain Bluetooth-enabled items, like badges or wristbands.
Image Source: MicroshareAccording to the firm, it documents when an employee comes into contact with another, and thereafter, uploads relevant details to a central database. The company states on its website that it uses ‘Bluetooth beacons, long-range scanners and low-power LoRaWAN® networks’ to collate and transfer the information in a secure manner.