Story at a glance

  • Israeli tech company PointGrab developed a sensor to anonymously track employees’ location.
  • The software may help regulate social distancing in workspaces.

Despite most businesses allowing their employees to work remotely to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, strides in vaccine development and treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prompt questions about when, if and how workers will safely return to office life.

One company is developing technology that may be able to alleviate some of the inherent difficulties preventing employees from returning to offices — namely, physically distancing.

PointGrab, an Israeli-based company, had been developing a prototype sensor to help workspace managers optimize how employees utilize office space prior to the pandemic, CNN reports


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Now, this sensor may emerge as a useful tool in helping employees maintain a safe distance away from each other in the workplace. The sensors, similar in design to a smoke detector, are able to detect and report the quantity and location of people in venues like offices, restaurants and hotels.

PointGrab CEO Doron Shachar told CNN that it worked with Deloitte’s London offices and helped the company fit 30 percent more people into 3 percent less space. 

Now, the company configured the device’s sensors to monitor social distancing by locating individuals and noting how far apart they are, as well as where they are traveling in company buildings.

Managers can select how to program the sensors to issue alerts when people are closer than about 6 feet apart from each other.

“An organization will choose what to do with that alert,” Shachar told reporters. “I don't think that they should blow an alarm.”

Some of PointGrab’s newest clients include large corporations like Facebook, Coca-Cola and Dell. 

Privacy hawks are likely going to take issue with the tracking nature of the software, but Shachar insists employee privacy will not be violated, since each employee is represented as an anonymous dot on the device’s corresponding interface. No feature characteristics or data are saved.

One client, Spacewell, a building management software provider, confirms that PointGrab’s technology successfully anonymized data.

“We do a lot of business with health care companies and financial service providers, so it's very important to make sure that you don't have any images or any data leaving the device,” Spacewell managing director Adrian Weygandt told CNN Business.

While the responsibility falls on employees to practice social distancing, Shachar said this technology can encourage good public health practices.

"What you need in order to actually comply with social distancing rules is exactly what we provide," he said. "That is understanding, in real time, where people are located."


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Published on Oct 23, 2020