Social Distancing and Contact Tracing in the Workplace

Posted by Andrew Pennington on Sep 15, 2020 10:00:00 AM

As businesses re-open their offices and employees are not restricted to work-from-home limitations, many are looking for ways to increase employee safety and actively respond to incidents of COVID-19 infections. Managing occupancy and density, monitoring adherence to social distancing guidelines, and performing contact tracing within the workplace are some of the challenges these businesses are facing. This blog post introduces solutions from ConvergeOne and its technology partners that address these challenges.

Social Distancing and Contact Tracing Solution

One solution consists of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags worn by the users in wrist strap, pendant, or key fob form factors and a cloud-based software for analysis and management. The tags leverage BLE to sense when the wearer is in close contact with another tag and can be configured to alert the person at specific distances and lengths of contact time. The distance and time alerts can be configured and pushed to the tags over the air, as per the current guidelines.

The tags keep records of the instances and push them periodically to BLE-enabled Wi-Fi access points that send the information securely to a cloud database. If your existing Wi-Fi network does not support BLE, there are gateway devices that plug into standard wall outlets to that bridge the BLE-Wi-Fi connection.

Administrators can then use the cloud interface to perform contact tracing as needed. For example, to see the people an infected person came into close contact with for X number of minutes over the last X number of days, and subsequently the people who were in contact with those people, etc.

You may be thinking, “Aren’t there smartphone apps that can do this?” Yes, there are some being tested today—but employers will likely desire a solution that is consistent and under their control, without requiring employees to use their personal devices.

What outcomes can businesses achieve leveraging existing Wi-Fi infrastructure?

Generally speaking, pure Wi-Fi-based location tracking does not give enough data to accurately perform contact tracing per the CDC-recommended distancing guidelines. This is because of the location accuracy, which is generally 5 to 10 meters even in a Wi-Fi deployment that was designed specifically with location services in mind. BLE can better pinpoint an employee’s location and proximity to others, but it requires the tags and infrastructure to support it. You can still gain insights with Wi-Fi-based RTLS, without requiring BLE tags or mobile applications.

Business and facility managers can potentially use the data captured with existing Wi-Fi deployments to manage real-time occupancy, track overall compliance to COVID-19 guidelines, and optimize staffing and cleaning procedures. In addition, the location analytics provided by these solutions could be leveraged in many ways beyond the pandemic use cases. For example:

  • Occupancy Management: Receive an email, SMS, or other alert when a zone is exceeding or about to exceed the occupancy limit set by the guidelines, based on the number of devices in an area connected to the network.

  • Staffing and Cleaning Optimization: Leverage heatmaps to determine areas of clustered Wi-Fi client activity that might require additional cleaning procedures, COVID-19 related signs, staff, and so on.

  • Journey Mapping: With location analytics, the feature known as Journey Mapping can provide additional insight. This is the ability to determine where a device moved throughout different zones and what the dwell time in each zone was. A specific device’s journey map can be used to aid in contact tracing. This will require the device to be actively connected to the Wi-Fi network.

Depending on your current Wi-Fi infrastructure, there are a variety of contact tracing solutions available. They are similar in some respects and unique in others. ConvergeOne has the expertise needed to design, implement, and manage Wi-Fi networks of all sizes and complexities for any use case.

Are you looking to upgrade your Wi-Fi network or need help deciding which contact tracing solution is right for your business?

Register now to have ConvergeOne contact you to learn more about the available contact tracing solution options.


Topics: Enterprise Networking, Wireless, Contact Tracing