We’ve all done our part by abiding by local rules to help flatten the COVID-19 curve and stop the spread of disease. I’ve worked from home for what I thought would be weeks that then turned into months and I’ve been surprised how quickly my immediate circle has adapted. Anyone not involved in essential manufacturing instantly started working from home, while manufacturing services immediately readjusted supply plans between customers operating with reduced manufacturing operations and those experiencing significantly higher demand (for example healthcare). Customers pivoted their R&D and reached out to partner on innovative projects that could make a difference. As we come out of a lockdown stage with the real fear of a second wave, it’s natural to be nervous about a return into the office workplace.

The global megatrend of an increase in urban population coupled with larger but more energy efficient, green buildings previously put a spotlight on building sustainability. While this is still important, the primary focus is now changing to ensuring safety of occupants and how technology can help.

Let’s look at two areas for combatting a disease such as COVID19 as determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and link it back into technology that can help keep the workplace safe:

Personal Hygiene:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

While there is personal responsibility here, technology can play a large role. By monitoring the number of people that have accessed an area in real time (meeting rooms, reception areas, rest rooms etc) cleaning and replenishment of soap and sanitizer units can happen when and where it is needed most. The data gathered can drive efficient cleaning schedules.

Through technology, the spread of germs can be avoided through non-essential contact. First, by restricting access to areas for the people that only need to be present but also by adding non touch technology. Doors that open on approach, lights that come on via movement or voice activation, non-contact temperature testing. The list is endless and this brings in a user-centric concept and approach to intelligent buildings.

Social Distancing:

  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others.
  • Avoid going to crowded places.

For social distancing, technology that counts and locates people within workplace areas can have many advantages. COVID-19 has forced all building and facility managers to review their building layouts. A building owner can adjust layout based on data, reducing the risk of potential social distance high risk spots. As guidelines may change over time, solutions need to adhere immediately. For example, adapting to different recommended social distancing guidelines or instantly preventing people from moving into areas that are at maximum capacity and even changing capacity for certain spaces (e.g. cafeterias). In all cases, any technology needs to adhere to security concerns (data must be secure from sensor to edge and to cloud) and personal privacy must be maintained. Streaming camera images to cloud has both privacy, bandwidth and cost concerns.

Intelligent Building Solutions from ADI

Non touch technology needs to be simple to manufacture, low power and operate in all light conditions. The ADPD1080 is a low power optical analog front end (AFE) used in high accuracy presence detection. It can enable workplace safety such as the detection of presence in restricted areas or non-contact building control, for example automatic lighting. Like a PIR, it detects presence, however the active infrared operates in both daylight and dark conditions with best in class ambient light rejection. It can be embedded within closed hard plastics for hidden optics, simplicity of manufacturing and hygiene advantages.

ADI EagleEyeTM is a technology combination of ADI’s Blackfin DSP and ADI’s proprietary software analytics algorithms. It enables 2D vision sensor-based people counting and location solution to facilitate space and energy optimization in buildings. Using the ADI’s proprietary solution, images are processed at the edge so no images are sent enabling a secure full edge to cloud solution. 

Want to know more about ADI EagleEyeTM

While space utilization will be critical for efficient operation within a workplace, it is not a restriction to talent or company growth.  During lock down, we’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate that working from home is not a barrier to innovation. Removing the need to be within a geographical location, expands an accessible talent pool and flexible work arrangements may unlock talent previously unavailable due to personal situations.

I miss the water cooler moments where a conversation can form the catalyst to new thinking or ideas and I miss the physical presence of the office. But with the possibility of new flexible work practices and work spaces that will enable a safe return to the workplace, I can see how operation will be just as effective in the future. But above all I want to be safe and no risk to my colleagues. Technology will support this.

I’m also proud about how corporations like ADI have responded to COVID-19 beyond technology. The ADI Foundation is supporting the World Health Organization COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, powered by the UN Foundation. It shows we can all make a difference: Individually, Corporately & Globally.

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