Technology, which helped replace the physical environment with a virtual one during the Covid-19 pandemic, is coming to the fore again as lockdown orders are eased to make employees feel safe at the workplace.
Health experts say social distancing is important because it can slow the spread of the virus and technology is going to change the workplace completely and every step will be monitored by sensors, apps and cameras.
All eyes will be on businesses across the globe to see how they can demonstrate the safety of working environments in offices, warehouses and production facilities.
Two tech businesses – SmartCitti and WRLD3D - have joined forces to launch a social-distancing app using GPS tracking and indoor navigation, known as SafeDistance, for inside the workplace.
SmartCitti, which has an office in Dubai, is responsible for SmartShopper app that helps people navigate their way around Dubai’s leading shopping malls and before that, it had developed the first-ever IoT-powered smart application for a University in the UAE.
Quoting a survey which they did it in the UAE, Nigel Fox, Director of SmartCitti, told TechRadar Pro Middle East that about 52% of the employees are nervous to go back to work and be near others.
The number one concern raised by the employees in the survey, he said is the level of sanitisation in workplaces and safe-distancing standards.
Moreover, he said that employees are nervous about the possibility of getting the infection from an asymptomatic colleague, especially in places such as kitchens, meeting rooms and bathrooms.
However, he said the study found out that 71% of respondents welcome any new technology into the workplace that can alleviate their concerns.
Easing anxiety and mental health
Fox said that they haven’t created a solution to exploit the pandemic situation.
“We were developing smart solutions based on IoT for smart office and smart facilities management. We have a background of smart solutions such as sensors and navigation components, wayfinding within buildings, desk allocation booking and meeting room booking solutions. We are tweaking the solution and creating a business around it,” he said.
In SafeDistance app, he said that they have taken the core software components and creates a 3D digital twin of the environment or digital replica of the building, mirroring the behaviours, movements and situations in real-time.
With this solution, he said that employees can feel safe to move around freely, significantly reducing the impact on their anxiety and mental health as sensors are placed throughout venues and facilities to capture the data necessary for the app to identify over-crowding and trigger an alert to facility managers.
“We are combining technology to distance in a bid to navigate and allocate desks. It creates a 3D visualisation of the office on employees’ phones, senses their movements and helps them avoid areas of high traffic. The application has been designed to address some of these issues,” he said.
Fox said that they have around 50 clients using some of their solutions globally.
The other issue for the organisations, he said is regarding data security.
He added that the data is either stored on on-premises or Amazon cloud, depending on the organisations.
“The on-prem solution is more complicated and expensive. We are a GDPR-compliant company,” he said.
When asked about the cost of implementation of this technology, he said that it varies and depends on the solutions used but it can vary from £25,000 and run into millions.