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Integrated Systems

Technology and tracing COVID-19

Since the first report of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China in December 2019, the virus has spread to over 188 countries, killing over 700,000 people. It is considered to be one of the most serious crises of our time and stemming the spread of this global pandemic is a priority for everyone. Now, more than ever, governments must coordinate with today’s health care and security services, as well as technology providers, to pool the expertise needed to address this microbial threat, writes Martin Cronin, pictured, CEO of tech firm Patriot One.

Identifying the microbial cause of an infectious disease is the cornerstone of effective disease control and prevention efforts. With vaccine development underway but still in the human trial stage, we must find alternative ways to control the spread of the virus. By incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into existing technologies, government, health care and security professionals can monitor public spaces and environments through the combined use of digital and thermal video surveillance cameras and video management systems (VMS); just one of the solutions being explored.

Traditionally, the key purpose of surveillance systems has been to deter first or detect and intercept threats before an attack is launched, including the detection of visible and hidden weapons and abnormal behaviour. While this will, of course, remains a primary focus, today’s security technology providers are now exploring how they can refocus efforts to defend against the new invisible threats, such as COVID-19 – a microbiological threat.

AI-driven solution

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has demonstrated particular potential for identifying those displaying symptoms of infectious diseases, without requiring physical human contact. Using AI-powered video analytic software, common ‘off the shelf’ video cameras can be enhanced to become remote video health screening tools, with capabilities including:

● Elevated body temperature screening and identification: Using thermal video cameras, individuals are scanned for elevated body temperature when entering a building. If the temperature is outside a nominal range, an alert is transmitted to onsite security for further action. The benefits of this are particularly apparent in locations, such as care homes, event venues, schools and offices, or indeed any venue that needs to quickly screen individuals or a queue of people entering a facility in a controlled checkpoint environment.
● Face mask compliance detection: Adapting existing digital video camera systems within a facility, security personnel can be alerted to anyone not complying with face mask requirements using object recognition/computer vision technology. Although regulation around face masks currently differs across the globe, it is widely accepted that this specific personal protection equipment (PPE) solution can assist in preventing the spread of viral pathogens and many businesses and services are enforcing its use. Video object recognition/computer vision technology is useful in environments such as hospitals, retail facilities and schools, where members of the public gather in an enclosed space.
● Social distancing and large gatherings: Data captured by today’s surveillance cameras can detect how close people are to one another. If they are contravening government guidelines, an automated alert message could be activated to assist onsite security to ensure visitors comply with social distancing recommendations. Similarly, the technology can detect large groups of people who may be interacting in close proximity and therefore increasing the possibility of multiple infections, prompting an automated response or police intervention if required.

Computer vision technology has existed for over a decade. Now, with the power of real-time AI software, integrated with current VMS systems, threat objects held by an assailant (visible or not) can be identified for immediate response. This can be done in an effective, but unobtrusive and touchless way that does not interrupt people’s day-to-day routine as is the case with other systems such as queueing for temperature checks or walking through a tunnel of antiseptic. While individuals and communities are willing to accept some inconvenience as a result of this new normal, privacy and civil liberties must be maintained.

Critically, technology must be capable of both identifying and tracking the virus. Early detection allows infection rates to be controlled, lessening the burden on healthcare services and ensuring individuals with symptoms are made aware. A low-profile system that is adaptable enough to be deployed across a range of environments where the public gathers in enclosed spaces is needed to improve the effectiveness of today’s security systems.

Decision-makers must coordinate and collaborate with security experts to arm themselves with a comprehensive understanding of how to best implement and integrate these technologies. They need to work together, with a clear strategy in place, to respond to threats and improve safety.

The future of microbial tracing

As we look ahead to the future of public security in a world impacted by this global pandemic, identifying the microbial cause of an infectious disease is the cornerstone of effective disease control and prevention efforts. It’s clear, however, that new technologies, specifically those driven by AI, have a role to play in making our communities safe. Only with the rapid deployment of these innovations will we be able to defend against the threats and the future risks our world will face.


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