It is therefore important, as we assess the effectiveness of smart building technology to improve overall hygiene and wellness, not to lose sight of the practical applications and tangible user benefits that are required. Thermal imaging (FLIR technology) and room occupancy monitoring both have potential uses in combatting the spread of COVID-19 and improving workplace safety going forward.
Our regular wellness metric deals with occupant health and wellness in temperature, lighting, air quality, highlighting some of the benefits that IoT enhanced infrastructure can have on occupant health and safety. But the industry was not prepared for the threat of a global pandemic, and will have to adapt and improve as the threat from viruses goes up in the years ahead. When workers congregate in office spaces again, after the conclusion of the current self-isolation period, the recrudescence of COVID-19 must be guarded against, just as the threat of further disease needs to be met.
First, thermal imaging technology can be integrated into access control: fever is one of the symptoms of the novel coronavirus and as such, people with fever must be identified before they are able to enter and contaminate any indoor space. In the United Arab Emirates, this technology is already being installed in supermarkets. Dahua, the company that has installed the new cameras, describes their effectiveness, saying they are capable of highly accurate body temperature measurement, to within ±0.3℃ (with black box). The camera features a built-in AI algorithm for multi-person measurements up to 3m distances, enabling fast and non-contact access.
Crucially, this remote monitoring means there is a reduced risk of transmitting the disease from person to person, a principle that has been used in airports for some time, in fact, since a previous coronavirus outbreak, SARS. But the installation of thermal cameras, while no doubt useful, is only really a reactive measure, designed to spot occupants who are already infectious. It cannot currently replace social distancing as a means of stopping the spread of the virus.
In order to act preventatively, room occupancy sensors that can identify where people are standing, walking, sitting, can be used to improve the accuracy of regular cleaning. The virus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for 2-3 days, and is highly infectious: it is therefore important to target those areas that have seen the highest volume of people traffic, and thoroughly disinfect areas where people tend to snack based on previous behavioural data. ‘Smart cleaning’ tends to focus on the maximizing the efficiency of cleaning schedules, reducing costs. But we must allocate funding for more thorough and widespread cleaning efforts even as we target infected areas more thoroughly, such is the infection rate of COVID-19.
Lessons learned from the current crisis will no doubt inform business practice in all kinds of ways, perhaps especially in regards to distributed work. But we should not forget the importance of planning for future viral and epidemiological challenges, acting locally, thinking globally as the old slogan went, to prevent another pandemic.
 “High Accuracy Thermal Body Temperature Measurement Solutions”, https://www.dahuasecurity.com/asset/upload/uploads/soft/20200306/Thermal-Body-Temperature-Measurement_Leaflet.pdf