Madlen Schuster e Ersan Günes
The Covid-19 pandemic that emerged this year presents enormous economic and organizational challenges for companies. In order to achieve continuous containment and flattening of the virus curve, strict protective measures must be implemented at the global level to prevent further infections in the long term.
In this context, companies were the first to rely on distance rules such as home offices, regulations on maintaining a safe distance and the use of breathing masks. However, not every commercial sector, such as logistics, production, hospitals, laboratories or office buildings in general, can be configured to work from home. Processes on production lines or in the work environment must be redesigned so that people can move a sufficient distance.
Digital twins as key role for Covid-19 protection
Sustainable and secure digital solutions are already available, using accurate but comparatively cost-effective, market-proven real-time location system platforms. They are mainly used for precise internal and external positioning for optimization and automation of logistics and production processes, such as the automatic identification of production goods, semi-finished products and transport in supply chains.
Social Distance Management applications specially developed by IoT RTLS platform providers allow companies to automate and control compliance while maintaining a safe distance of 1.5 to 2 meters (4.9 to 6.6 feet) for their employees. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms generate accurate location data from simple radio signals, which can be used to generate safe distance information in the form of a virtual buffer zone or “geographic fence” to minimize the risk of infection transmission. The established personal protective zone alerts employees optically and acoustically by means of lightweight devices (wristbands or pickers) before the safety distance is reduced.
Applications equipped with location technology also have other necessary security functions:
• Tracking chains of infection: the location and contact areas of people infected with Covid-19 can be traced and identified, and they can be blocked for all other employees. People who have had contact with the areas of a sick person can be notified to take additional protective measures.
• Contact reduction: crowds can be avoided, as can the specification or proposal of individual routes.
• Anti-cyclical employee traffic: crowds caused by peak times can be avoided, and IoT-based applications can control passenger movements countercyclically. Warning area traffic lights can also help visualize the danger level of the respective area.
• Avoid risk groups and protect at the same time: employees who belong to a risk group can be actively marked and thus unnecessary contact can be avoided. An immediate quarantine zone can also be created to isolate sick people and keep healthy individuals at a distance.
• Detection of contaminated tools and materials: Infected people’s work materials can be detected and blocked by a protective beam.
• Keyless entry: through open interfaces, this platform can be coupled with opening systems in order to open, adjust or convert doors, gates and workstation equipment automatically and without contact.
• “Outdoors in the distance”: similar to a smartwatch, employees can receive a recommendation to go out into the fresh air and stay there for a while. This is done anticyclically so as not to create crowds of people.
• Observing hygiene regulations: these applications can provide regular advice on how to comply with hygiene regulations, if desired.
UWB as the preferred intelligent distance technology
In containing the Covid-19 pandemic, precision of distance is the main priority, as any deficit may have consequences. For this reason, stable ultra-wideband technology is increasingly being used, as it already has a clear advantage over other positioning technologies, such as WLAN or Bluetooth, does not interfere with other technologies and provides position data with accuracy of up to ± 10 centimeters (± 4 inches). Compared to WLAN or GPS, positioning accuracy is up to 150 times more accurate – 15 meters to 10 centimeters (49 feet to 4 inches). Even Bluetooth is still too inaccurate with 3 meter (9.8 ft) accuracy.
Data protection plays an important role due to Covid-19 digital solutions
Dual digital technology can help ensure data compliance and strict protection of employee data. Location data is generated anonymously and is not linked to specific individuals or personal data. This software behaves like an encapsulated system, issuing only a warning if a distance limit is reached. Third parties do not have access. Only an end user decides how and for what purpose their data will be used.
Fast and immediate deployment: companies should not waste time
The big advantage of these solutions is that the social distance management applications are very scalable and ready for use in a few days. The prerequisite is the installation of RTLS access points in the areas to be monitored, as well as the equipment of the employees with UWB-based tags (wearables) and the installation of a IoT RTLS platform. Some RTLS companies already provide these applications to new and existing customers for free, out of solidarity.
Back to Normality
Employee security solutions allow immediate start of work and ongoing business processes. Professional, reliable and data-security-compatible remote control through an integrated warning system enables the reduction of new infections as well as the efficient management of Covid-19. This allows a quick re-entry and start of logistics, production and other company processes in compliance with prescribed hygiene measures.
Madlen Schuster is digital marketing manager of INTRANAV’s software platform for real-time location systems (RTLS IoT), based in Frankfurt, Germany. RTLS is, with its digital twin, the enabling technology for intelligent factories and Industry 4.0. With the digitization of precise positioning data for people, industrial assets and the automation of logistics and production processes, INTRANAV’s RTLS IoT platform contributes to a significant increase in efficiency.
Ersan Günes is the co-founder and managing director of INTRANAV. He is responsible for the vision and product of the company. Günes studied electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Darmstadt, Germany, and founded INTRANAV seven years ago. He has strong industrial experience in the field of real-time location systems and IoT for automation and industrial optimization. Günes has implemented more than 50 IoT projects in the production and logistics sector in recent years.