The COVID-19 crisis has impacted everyday life of people in our world. As we try to find the new normal and return to the rhythm of life, organizations and businesses are looking for new ways to keep employees, customers and the overall public safe.
Technologies will play a key role in this return, though exactly which technologies is still unclear. Many organizations are looking at temperature monitoring as one step in applying technology to the problem, but temperature monitoring alone is not a good indicator whether a person has been exposed to COVID-19; it’s simply one potential indicator.
Many of our clients who are inquiring about temperature monitoring are overwhelmed with companies and products that claim to help with COVID-19. Sirius wants to help by providing a few areas to think about when choosing products and solutions for temperature monitoring.
Temperature monitoring use cases
First, an organization needs to determine their use cases. Each use case will likely have different technology solutions, pricing and implementation timelines.
Low-volume areas: These might be small remote offices or other locations where few people come and go, where adding a little time to the entry process isn’t a problem. In this situation, the person entering might even be able to take their own temperature and record it in some kind of written log. This technology subsection is the least expensive the quickest to deploy, as it’s likely hand-held and potentially self-administered.
Moderate-volume areas: These areas might be employee entry points where a number of people might flow through multiple times a day. It may also be areas where the volume isn’t high, but temperature monitoring compliance is required and needs to be independently documented. Here, it’s okay for people to form a line behind a device, wait 10 – 15 seconds for a reading, and get an immediate go/no-go response. This technology bucket is expensive but easy to deploy, while still providing automated and structured recording.
Mass-volume areas: These areas, such as hospital lobbies, airport lines or sporting events, have large flows of people where it’s difficult to create a single line. In these situations, people need to move almost normally through an entry area, and have temperatures read and recorded along with video feeds. A person with a temperature anomaly can be selected out of the crowd for further evaluation. This technology subsection is very expensive and requires the most effort to install and configure. However, it provides the least impact on people.
By using these categorizations, it’s easier to narrow down the technology landscape based on the use case, cost and time to deploy.
Except for dedicated handheld temperature sensors, most of the solutions are relying on a thermal camera for temperature detection. Therefore, a major area of consideration is camera accuracy. Taking a temperature reading without touching the person is generally less accurate, so camera accuracy needs to be part of the selection consideration. Is it acceptable to have more false positives that need to be manual verified? Is it acceptable to have more false negatives, potentially allowing sick people into an area? Accuracy within +/- .1 degree is the best to be expected, but that accuracy usually only comes with expensive, high-end thermal cameras.
While it was implied in the use cases, cost is another significant consideration. How many locations are needed? Costs can range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars per camera, plus software and ongoing maintenance. This is also an important consideration even though we want safety for our employees and customers. Keep in mind that one size doesn’t fit all situations—it’s okay to mix and match use cases assuming it can be managed.
Prepare for false positives
Also be prepared for false positives due to using skin temperature vs. internal temperature. Many monitors use under-tongue or in-ear probes to get a more accurate reading. Skin temperature can vary widely due to weather, activity, and the general differences between people. What impact will those variables have on your specific situation?
Process is critical
Technology is a wonderful thing and will be useful in helping our world move forward, but it isn’t the only requirement. Organizations need to think through the workflow, HR and customer relationship issues with any monitoring. If the technology selects someone for a temperature, what is the next step in the process? Do you automatically send them away, take a manual reading, or submit them to a COVID-19 test? Does that mean an employee must take a sick day or paid time off, or can they simply work from home? Do you risk angering current or potential customers, postponing important meetings or creating other longer-term impacts?
These aren’t all of the considerations, but Sirius hopes this will help start important conversations and evaluation of different technologies as we continue to fight COVID-19 or whatever virus is next. Know that Sirius is here to help as you evaluate needs and use cases, evaluate technologies and deploy solutions.