Five Ways to Ensure Workplace Social Distancing Through IoT Solutions

By Mike Ruggeri, Sales Development Manager at Advantech

A global pandemic’s impact on the way we do business

The current COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the way organizations do business. Over the last several months, on-site and face-to-face business interactions have all but disappeared. There has been an acceleration across organizations of all sizes to adopt more virtual meeting platforms, such as Go2Meeting, Skype, Zoom, etc. Tradeshows, conferences and other ways that people initiate business – happy hours, to coffee shop chats, hotel lobby meet ups and more – are all things of the past. The biggest impact of COVID-19 has been going from face-to-face interactions to being relegated to phone, electronic communication and the utilization of virtual meeting platforms.  

Additionally, with the economic downturn that has resulted from the pandemic, many companies are taking a more ‘lean and mean’ approach, trimming the fat to ensure cash-flow remains consistent. If a good ROI or profit number can’t be attached to an area of the business that is outside of its core, it will most likely be kept on hold. Businesses of all shapes and sizes have gone back to centering their efforts on core products and offerings. They are forgoing some of the more innovative and conceptual projects, as well as lower profit ones, for the projects that will generate an immediate and higher revenue stream.

The impact has also certainly affected the supply chain management side of a business. The recent tariff wars forced many companies to tighten up their supply chains or look for alternatives, if connected to China. With the arrival of the global pandemic, the issue for some went from looking for less expensive alternatives, to factories being completely shut down and businesses needing to find an immediate replacement. CEOs and vice presidents are now examining everything closer in their supply chains, including lead-times, inventory, component shortages, etc. with an eye toward shortening production cycles. This allows their businesses to react better to current demand unburdened by the ebbing and flowing impacts of COVID-19.

Getting back to business as usual, but a in a new reality

Social distancing will not be just a trend we see at the height of COVID-19, but should continue to stay in effect for a long while, especially in the workplace. Many companies are looking to implement new measures, protocols and solutions, to ensure “contactless” approaches in an everyday workplace environment. High-touch places within a business, like conference rooms, recreational areas and break rooms, will either need to be more closely monitored, sanitized regularly or completely eliminated. We will also see a higher utilization of self-service kiosks and devices, for employees to check in or out of work, initiate payments with customers, etc. Being able to provide both a safe work environment and good customer experience is key for businesses looking to succeed post pandemic.

Here are five ways IoT technology solutions can help ensure social distancing in a new reality:

  1. An end-to-end machine vision and inspection system

A complete vision and inspection system reduce the firsthand touching of products coming down the manufacturing line. Through cameras, software dashboards and a computer architecture, an operator can safely view and analyze data from the entire production line without physically being on the line with others.

  • Touch panel PCs

Touch panel PC are all-in-one computers built to handle harsh environments and are often used in human interface applications. These PCs will be increasingly implemented in a factory or industrial setting, as industrial protective wear (like gloves) do not need to be removed in order to use them. These systems can be used to display remote sensor-driven data where there are extreme hygienic standards.      

  • Self-service kiosks

While self-service kiosks are nothing new, their capabilities will greatly increase as a result of new COVID-19 safety protocols. For instance, when it comes to event logistics and management, instead of just being able to purchase tickets via a kiosk, customers will be able to purchase concessions, merchandise, parking and more all from a single access point. All transaction and kiosk health-related data can be accessed remotely.

  • Worker safety solutions

Worker safety solutions in the form of wearables can pull data to measure an employee’s heart rate and GPS location. Along with innovative data aggregation technology, these wearables have the architectural base to be repurposed to gather a person’s geographic location in relation to others, as well as measure their temperature.

  • Edge computing

There many use scenarios and applications that would see value in edge computing and gateways. With the extreme amount of workforce reductions, there are now fewer people that can obtain and manage device data. The ability to have sensors, software dashboards, and edge-based gateway computers that are zero touch for management and security, is no longer just an IoT trend but a necessity.

Looking ahead at a potential second wave of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic will serve as an accelerator for technology trends, like 5G, which will provide the ability to conduct data tracking in real-time, versus mirroring real-time. New compliance guidelines will mean companies need to track and trace people and assets better, and 5G provides the pipeline to facilitate this requirement.

COVID-19 is not going anywhere; however, the way we operate in the workplace and everyday life is key to preventing another global lockdown. It is critical to minimize the physical deployment of personnel and potential breach of physical distance issues that people might encounter doing their job in the traditional sense, and IoT solutions can help make this possible.

About the Author:

Mike Ruggeri

Mike Ruggeri has over 20 years of technology sales experience serving various industry sectors. He manages a sales development team at Advantech that focuses on helping customers realize their digital transformation vision with embedded IoT and design-in products and services.   

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