As government leaders across the country weigh how best to reopen states and cities in the coming weeks in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, health experts agree that, aside from increased virus and antibody testing, businesses will need solutions in place to aid tracking who has contacted COVID-19 and trace those who they may have come into contact with. Though much of the early focus has centered around using things like smartphone apps that can notify individuals that they’ve recently had contact with someone infected by the virus, those types of products will do little to help enterprises and other organizations that will need more comprehensive datasets to ensure employees and customers safety.
Thankfully, many security vendors are looking into how they can leverage their existing solutions or are seeking out complementary technologies to help business address risks related to COVID-19 exposure. One such company is event response management solution provider Maxxess Systems, which recently unveiled a new “Health Risk Management” application for its InSite Response Coordination System.
When someone tests positive for the virus, the application can be used to immediately survey other employees to determine who has encountered them. It can also be used in conjunction with thermal sensors to detect those who may be running fevers when they enter a facility.
According to Peter Matuchniak, CTO of Maxxess Systems, one of the goals they had after building InSite was that people would use it as a day-to-day enterprise tool and not just for emergencies. For example, he said employees could use the app for “Good Samaritan-types” of things, such as reporting that graffiti had been sprayed on the sidewalk or checking in and out at various locations around the corporate campus.
“With respect to COVID, we saw an opportunity to say, ‘Well, where have people been the last two or three days. If they’ve been reporting things or checking in and out at various locations, if they become sick, we can now look at the previous locations they went to and mark those locations, office buildings or whatever, as a potential health risk and allow other people to know that maybe you don’t want to be going there or be in contact with someone that has been at a site where someone was known to be sick,” Matuchniak explains. “There’s various types of ad hoc queries that you can run against activities that, while on the surface may seem mundane, when you have an event like this it becomes important information.”
Shortly after the coronavirus burst onto the scene in Wuhan, China, Andre Datyelian, Marketing Manager at Maxxess, said they quickly got to work tailoring a solution for InSite that would enable end-users to mitigate the effects of the virus on their organizations.
“Really, the value of InSite has always been the effectiveness by which it allows organizations to communicate and respond during a critical event or any unplanned event, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be a national disaster,” Datyelian says. “The main reason people implemented it was for acts of violence, cyberattacks or even something like COVID-19 falls under, which is that critical event category. When we saw COVID-19 spreading quickly in parts of Asia – before it really became an issue here in the U.S. – what we decided to do is take InSite and customize it to specifically deal with the COVID-19 issue.”
How It Works
If someone becomes a known health risk, Matuchniak says that the Health Risk Management application can then put a red dot next to that person’s name in the system to track all their recent activity.
“Now you can see at a glance when you’re doing your real-time queries on the screen the events that have occurred for a particular person and narrow it down to whether they were someone you deemed as a health risk – where were they, what were they doing and who else was at that location,” he says. “All of that provides quite a powerful search engine. You can search by person and event, a location and, of course, now this health risk status. The health risk could apply to COVID-19, but it could also apply to anything else, the flu or someone who has contracted some disease that is very contagious. It is really the data mining of all of the activity that has gone on with respect to who has been marked as a risk or a site that has been marked as a risk.”
Getting Back to Work
While the world will undoubtedly look like a different place when people do start returning to offices once the spread of the virus has subsided, Datyelian says it will still be incumbent upon businesses to be prepared to manage this and other health risks.
“As people go back to work, I think if this starts popping up again and (health experts) are talking about a potential second or third wave, if we know that someone is potentially a health risk, it’s very clear on our system and in the mobile app that these are people or these are sites that have known issues and you want to be careful about returning back to work when someone at that particular site has been denoted as a risk to you,” Matuchniak adds. “As people go back, it’s going to be very important to know where you should and shouldn’t be going and I think this will help in that regard.”
Other Vendors Doing their Part
Of course, Maxxess is not alone when it comes to providing security technology that can double as a tool to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on organizations. Several other vendors in recent weeks have also announced their own offerings to combat the coronavirus. Here is a brief overview of companies offering COVID-19-specific solutions and how they work:
Known predominantly for its physical identity and access management (PIAM) solutions, the company this week announced the launch of its Workspace Health & Safety Intelligence module. Like the Maxxess application, the module provides end users with intelligence and analytics to help track confirmed and potentially exposed employees.
“This is the new normal, where enterprises must fundamentally reassess how they manage workspace access and the ongoing health and well-being of their workforce and customers in a world with COVID-19,” Jasvir Gill, Founder and CEO of AlertEnterprise, explains. “We are committed to helping organizations meet the highest levels of health and safety standards. And as business reopens, we’re putting technology to work to help companies defend their workforces by leveling-up COVID-19 prevention, detection and mitigation in the workplace.”
Earlier this month, G4S announced a partnership with Stabilitas to integrate the company’s critical event intelligence platform into its Risk Operations Center (ROC) to help organizations identify current and potential COVID-19 hotspots where they may have a high concentration of employees or suppliers. The Stabilitas solution provides information about local policies and closures relevant to a company’s operations and supply chain as they happen. By combining the Stabilitas AI with G4S ROC analyst resources, companies can have real-time access to information about areas with the most reports of COVID-19 as well as those with the highest day-on-day growth rates.
“The recent COVID-19 outbreak has made evident the need for local intelligence that can be globally communicated, as businesses with people and operations around the world need quick, comprehensive and actionable information to effectively respond to hotspots and make business-critical decisions daily,” G4S Americas CEO John Kenning says. “G4S ROC analysts are able to use the Stabilitas’ AI platform to provide customers with actionable data to help protect their employees, operations and assets. Our strategic partnership with Stabilitas enhances the integrated security service offerings we provide customers under our Security Operations Center (SOC) Practice.”
Eagle Eye Networks
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increased interest in the use of thermal imaging to identity individual who may have fevers. In response, many security manufacturers are now looking at ways to integrate thermal cameras into their existing portfolio of solutions. In fact, cloud-based VMS firm Eagle Eye Networks recently announced that it has added support for dual spectrum cameras that can be used for elevated temperature detection.
"The quick support for this advanced thermal technology, hosted on the Eagle Eye Video API Platform, demonstrates the future proof nature of this service. Integration of new technologies, new cameras, and new capabilities are core to our open cloud platform. This is a great example of being able to rapidly deliver a solution, in response to an unexpected situation, with a technology that could prove to be very important," Dean Drako, CEO of Eagle Eye Networks, says.
Developed at the request of Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, Genetec recently debuted its new “Contagion/Contaminant Proximity Report” feature for users of its Synergis access control system. The reporting function correlates physical proximity of an infected individual with other employees and badged visitors based on the use of the access control system.
“With Synergis, any organization can produce a detailed report that shows exposure metrics for employees and visitors utilizing existing access control data,” Thibaut Louvet, Product Group Director, Access Control at Genetec, explains. “It considers that if two people went through the same door in a short period of time, chances are high that they had some level of interaction. This forensic analysis can be extremely beneficial to organizations seeking to use the technology they already have to better protect employees, visitors, and the broader community.”
Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].