IoT helps make returning to work safer

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As more employees prepare to return to company offices at least part of the time, companies have turned to worker safety, given the current Covid-19 pandemic. In some cases, Internet of Things (IoT) and networking technologies play a key role in these efforts.

In fact, organizations can make decisions about when and how to bring workers back based on their ability to monitor them and their behavior using these tools.

Here’s a look at how three organizations are leveraging IoT technologies to ensure workplace safety.

Monitor air quality

Innovatus Capital Partners, an independent advisor and portfolio management company, wants to ensure that when business leaders and employees return to the office, their expectations for clean and safe environments are met.

To this end, the company has deployed an intelligent air quality monitoring system at its offices in Illinois and Tennessee. The system combines technologies from Veea, a leading IT company, and Wynd Technologies, a supplier of portable air purifiers.

“Workers returning to sales offices after Covid-19 need to be confident that they are in the cleanest environment possible,” said Bradley Seiden, CEO of Innovatus. “This means you have to be able to measure the environment, especially the air quality in the environment.”

The company has deployed air quality monitoring sensors in common areas where they collect air measurements such as mold and CO2 levels, temperature, humidity, and more. The sensors can also identify the presence of airborne particles with signatures that could indicate the presence of coronavirus and various influenza strains.

Data is collected via Wireless through the Veea Edge platform, where Wynd’s application software gathers data from sensors, processes it and feeds it to the data visualization software. This software creates tables and graphs that display on screens throughout the facility, allowing visitors and tenants to view air quality scores in real time.

In addition to localized processing and presentation, data can be sent to Wynd’s cloud for further analysis using the built-in 4G LTE capability of the Veea Edge platform.

“We focused on air quality first, but we also wanted our platform to be extensively scalable to meet the ever-changing needs of our office tenants, building suppliers and our customers. users, ”he says. “And we also wanted to be able to cost-effectively integrate it into our properties and allow easy expansion into our tenant spaces without disrupting our existing building management systems.

Veea’s platform includes Smart Edge Nodes, which are router-sized network devices that include Linux-based server processing combined with Wi-Fi mesh technology and wireless IoT device connectivity. , including ZigBee, Bluetooth and LoRaWAN. The nodes collect data from Wynd sensors over Wi-Fi.

These hubs can be linked together to create a virtual pool of connectivity and compute at the edge of the network, “where our tenants and their devices connect,” says Seiden. “This edge platform offers distributed processing as well as distributed connectivity.”

The flexibility of the edge platform was a key factor in its selection, Seiden says. The hubs are installed in places where property managers typically place access points or Wi-Fi routers, and they connect to each other, he says.

The hubs use a mix of Wi-Fi and Ethernet with proprietary mesh technology from Veea that works with both wired and wireless connections. Veea mesh uses built-in wireless WAN / 4G LTE, allowing the entire system to be independent of the building’s wired data infrastructure, eliminating an integration step.

The capabilities of the sensors that collect data (Wynd Halo Smart Air Quality Monitors) are software defined. So even after the monitors are deployed, updates can allow them to search for new air quality indicators. For example, they could be coded to detect smoke from burning furniture, which has a different signature than kitchen smoke.

Innovatus says it plans additional deployments of the system in other properties in other states.

Contact tracing and occupancy control

After the pandemic forced Bay State College to close in early spring 2020, senior officials began to think about how to safely resume classes on college campuses in Boston and Taunton, in the Massachusetts.

They wanted a minimally invasive, easy to deploy, and financially justifiable technology solution that they could implement in less than five months. Having small class sizes and not large conference rooms gave the college a distinct advantage in achieving social distancing, but even so, the college ran the risk that a single case of coronavirus could infect one. significant share of the population.

College leadership determined that instead of relying on a single product, a layered technology approach would be needed, says Jeffrey Myers, CIO at Bay State. An important requirement would be contact tracing, which is seen by health services as one of the most important efforts to help slow the spread of the virus. The Ambow Education USA IT team, which manages the college, deployed a digital contact tracing system using Cisco Meraki and HID Global products.

Everyone on campus – faculty, staff, students and visitors – received an ID lanyard and badge holder fitted with HID’s low-power BEEK Bluetooth beacons that needed to be worn visibly at all times. .

Behind the scenes, the college rolled out the Cisco Meraki Wi-Fi network across all of its campuses. Each wireless access point (AP) contains a Bluetooth antenna that listens for intermittent pings from badge holders, triangulates data from multiple access points to determine the relative location of the beacons, and then stores that data in a SQL database.

For security reasons, Myers declined to share the location of the database, but claims that the Meraki system has application programming interfaces (APIs) available to pull the necessary data directly from the access points. .

The IT team then developed Microsoft Power BI queries that allowed them to determine who was in the same location at the same time for a period of 10 minutes or more with a potentially infected person, Myers explains.

As part of an effort to secure the data, they are all destroyed after 14 days, and during the 14-day period, they are encrypted and can only be accessed by senior IT staff and for research purposes only. contacts, Myers explains. The tags on the badges transmit MAC addresses that do not contain any personal information. “There is no way for anyone to associate the MAC address alone with this person,” he says.

The system enabled the college to perform contact tracing quickly and easily by removing the manual and time-consuming effort of identifying who has been in contact with whom on campus. “If an infected person comes to campus, we can figure out who that person was and minimize the impact and virtually stop any spread in the community,” Myers says.

The global solution keeps a real-time count of the number of individuals on campus, helping the college comply with national and local restrictions. “We can tell the occupation at any time,” Myers says. “I can go into the system right now and tell you exactly how many people are on both campuses.” The system gives the college “digital evidence” that meets current limits, he says.

Ambow Education USA’s IT team worked during the summer of 2020 to deploy the systems. “The project required a tremendous amount of time, testing, expertise and teamwork to resolve the unique challenges associated with the moving target of a developing pandemic,” says Myers.

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