Technology has played a vital role in how businesses have enabled their employees to work productively from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of us who can do our jobs from home you only have to look at the ‘Zoom Boom’ to see how much our working lives have changed compared to the beginning of the year. Despite the fact that those companies that can are now productively and efficiently operating remotely, the country is now facing the next challenge in this crisis: how to safely reopen workplaces for those who can’t.

There is no argument that the economy hasn’t taken a hit during this unpredictable time. Shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities have been forced to close, and 23% of the country’s workforce (6.3 million people) has been furloughed. It’s no surprise that the Bank of England has warned that the UK is heading towards its sharpest recession on record.

To counter this economic risk, the government is taking steps to slowly and cautiously reopen the economy by easing lockdown measures, sending people back to work and allowing businesses to reopen. With non-essential retail outlets now able to open from the 15th June, the question business owners face is how to operate safely and maintain social distancing practices, which are set to remain in place until such time as a vaccine is widely available.

With lockdown easing and a ‘new normal’ on the horizon, the health of the country’s workforce mustn’t be forgotten in a bid to save the economy. This is why technology that can allow for a controlled return to work, while mitigating any risks to the health of consumers and employees, must play a part in the easing of lockdown.

Temperature screening in the new normal

Elevated temperature screening is one technology that should play a key part in return to work strategies and the safe reopening of businesses. This valuable solution uses a thermal and optical camera to analyse body temperature, which is a key indicator of the presence of a potential illness, and discreetly alerts the operator when the set temperature threshold is exceeded by someone screened by the tool. With temperature screening technology in place, the exposure of potentially infected individuals to others can be dramatically decreased and the risk of a localised outbreak minimised.

Furthermore, for businesses such as retailers whose success is dependent on customers feeling safe to visit the premises, it has the added benefit of giving them additional assurances that visible measures for their protection are in place. In combination with other solutions, such as vigorous testing and screens to protect employees and customers, returning to work can be safe and controlled.

With temperature screening technology in place, the exposure of potentially infected individuals to others can be dramatically decreased

The reality of a ‘new normal’ may already be visible in some industries, such as grocery retail where one-way systems, plastic screens and constant cleaning are already in place. However, elevated temperature screening has countless applications for both essential and non-essential industries, ranging from offices and train stations, to hospitals and pharmacies. This screening technology allows businesses to take preventative steps to minimise the chances of the wider workforce and customers coming into contact with someone exhibiting symptoms of a potential illness.

A number of businesses are already deploying this technology, such as Vodafone, which has deployed heat detection cameras at key UK sites to protect its employees. The camera used by the telco can screen up to eight people at once and 100 people per minute, while judging body temperature in less than half a second – all of which makes it ideal for congested and high traffic areas.

Not all solutions are created equal

Over the past few months, we have been inundated with images and videos of temperature screening taking place within key industries, which have continued to operate through the pandemic. However, the hand-held thermometers commonly being used require the device to be within an extremely short range of the subject and are only able to screen one person at a time. This is why remote elevated temperature screening solutions are so valuable – especially given that social distancing guidelines are unlikely to be relaxed in the near future. Stand-off solutions can enable temperature screening to take place without the need for close human interaction, further safeguarding employees and reducing the risk of contact with potentially infected individuals.

Elevated temperature screening has countless applications for both essential and non-essential industries, ranging from offices and train stations, to hospitals and pharmacies

Along with remote capabilities, there are a number of other crucial factors to take into account. The solution must be quick and easy to implement, as well as being highly accurate. When paired with a blackbody, the accuracy of temperature screening solutions can be within 0.3°C. Connectivity is also key and adopting an end-to-end solution linked to a centralised command and control location is invaluable. With holistic connectivity, these solutions can encompass cameras installed in multiple locations, and alarms can be viewed locally, remotely or on a smartphone app. This means that staff don’t need to provide direct supervision to the device on-site. With the guidelines regarding which industries and sectors can reopen changing on an almost daily basis, it’s important that these protective solutions can be installed without overhauling the surveillance infrastructure already in place.

Looking ahead, adopting a solution with an upgrade path to other enhancements, such a facial recognition, is favourable as they can be used in conjunction with future and existing security measures. 

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Stand-off solutions can enable temperature screening to take place without the need for close human interaction

Businesses have plenty on their minds as they prepare for the uncertainty that is sure to continue throughout the rest of the year and beyond. However, due diligence can’t be left to the wayside when looking to adopt an elevated temperature screening solution. There are high-risk vendors present in the market, many of which have been blacklisted in the US, and they must be given a wide berth. Buying British-made technology can alleviate these security concerns, as well as avoiding any logistical issues caused by the breakdown of global supply chains. 

As the economy cautiously reopens, the country will have to adapt to a ‘new normal’ over the coming months. Elevated temperature screening solutions should be implemented by businesses to protect the health of the workforce and customers alike – ultimately paving the way to a safe and controlled return to work.

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Author profile

Neil Hendry Technical Director, Digital Barriers

Neil Hendry is Vice President – EMEA at Digital Barriers, previously working at the company as a Technical Director. He has over 25 years of extensive engineering experience and was a member of the British Army for more than 20 of those years, achieving the position of Chief Technical Officer. Neil co-founded telecommunications and surveillance company, Enterprise Technologies (UK) in 2010. He graduated from Cranfield University with a degree in Telecommunications Systems Engineering.

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