Picture: 123RF/Eric Eric
Picture: 123RF/Eric Eric

Local firms have come up with solutions for a business sector that suddenly has to comply with new protocols for health and safety. New tech solutions to curb the spread of Covid-19 have been developed quickly with the potential to replace manual processes for sanitary and social distancing measures, temperature screening and managing quarantine.

Datacentrix has a smart fever-screening solution that is contactless and reads the temperature of multiple people simultaneously. Its thermal handheld screener works from a distance of 1.5m-3m, and its long-range bullet camera is able to get temperature data 4.5m-9m away which it says is accurate up to 0.5°C-0.3°C. The devices are Wi-Fi enabled and offer the monitoring of thermal and optical high-quality images. Data is secured by means of access control, including IP address filtering and encryption.

Pretoria-based IoT.nxt has created a product called CoVision to help companies manage the distancing of people and vehicle counting as well as queue monitoring using low-cost hardware.

Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt, says CoVision is paired with a smartphone or the CoVision Raptor with a camera to measure the number of people walking along a passage or entrance. This enables tracking in shopping centres, retail chain stores, hospitals, libraries or banks.

"It can also use existing hardware such as cameras on a local network to monitor the same metrics by identifying the pixels that make up the shape of a human or vehicle through its software application and machine-learning algorithm. It monitors when an object or person crosses a virtual line, which the software keeps count of, in real time," says Steyn.

CoVision has a web interface to monitor the data, which can be viewed in real time and as a historic set of information from a device that has access to the internet and a browser.

The information can also be made public to assist consumers who want to get a sense of how busy a store, for example, may be, before setting out for it.

IoT.nxt’s people-counting software costs R5,000-R10,000 depending on the site, traffic volumes and accuracy that is required. The company has also created an Android application, which allows small businesses with limited funds to get the benefits of the software.

"CoVision is fully compliant with privacy regulations based on international standards; the gateway will purely send values to the platform ensuring that no personal information is ever collected," says Steyn. All information is stored for up to a year and accessible via two-step verification. Steyn says the software will add value long after the pandemic is over.

Meanwhile, software firm Macrocomm has imported a temperature-monitoring camera made by China Mobile International (CMI). CEO Sivi Moodley says Macrocomm has brought in a host of solutions from CMI after studying successful cases in dealing with constraints imposed by the pandemic in China. A thermal temperature camera with built-in facial recognition is one of them.

"The hardware is manufactured in China but the software and analytics run on the Macrocomm [internet of things] platform and integrates with our existing access control and time and attendance systems that manage security, health, safety, human resources and payroll."

The system will monitor temperature and note people who are not wearing a mask.

Macrocomm’s smart analytics platform is able to analyse information from the camera as well as existing systems and provide a customised management report and dashboard.

It counts the number of visitors and staff entering a building, gives a temperature trend analysis, pinpoints potentially high-risk individuals, records staff working hours and makes a risk analysis of employees.

The system is already used by over 20 small, medium and large companies in SA, and it comes with a financing option for smaller businesses.

The company has also created camera analytics software with artificial intelligence, a social distancing alert button suitable for children and a "request for assistance" GPS-enabled panic button for the elderly.

It also designed and developed a "pay by face" system — a contactless payment platform that reduces the cost of transacting and ensures secure processing, thereby limiting the risk of cross-contamination.

"We believe that the virus is going to be part of our lives for a while and therefore it is vital that businesses and individuals learn to cohabitate with the virus," says Moodley. Cost-effective contactless solutions, he adds, take this future into account.

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