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Don’t stand so close to me: Irish companies resolving the challenges of social distancing

As countries around the world seek ways to live alongside Covid-19, social distancing becomes more important than ever.  For organisations and businesses, achieving it while minimising damage to productivity is vital.
A raft of highly effective solutions has emerged from Ireland to help.

For innovation watchers, that’s no surprise. A recent international survey placed Ireland 6th in a global ranking of countries responding best in terms of innovation to the pandemic, just behind innovators such as the US, Canada and Israel.
Enterprise Ireland client companies have been leading the way.

That includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for Industry 4.0, working with clients in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres.

Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.

As UtilityAR CEO and founder Patrick Liddy explains: “Over the past couple of months the buzzword has been business continuity. We are now moving to return to work and the issue is how that can be done safely.”

“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes.”

Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration.

With fewer workers expected to work alongside one another as a result of Covid protocols, including staggered start times and shift changes, it allows workers to receive guidance or ensure they are following correct procedures, and allows co-workers or advisors to assess their progress remotely.

Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified challenges for the construction industry in relation to induction and training.

Much of this traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom environment, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.

Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated and moved a construction site’s orientations and registrations online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.

Since Covid it has been enabling the construction industry to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.

Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere. Instead of having to show up a work trailer to do paperwork, a worker can complete everything online the night before so they can stay socially distanced and safe during the registration process.

 It solves the problem of training too by allowing workers and subcontractors to login to GoContractor to undertake all their training and orientations online prior to coming on a worksite, removing the need to break social distancing protocol to be properly on-boarded onto a site.

For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.

GoContractor also allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked in and out at a distance.

The company has clients in the USA, Canada, UK and across Europe, including  some international construction companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.

Irish software firm Solgari has an integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options that are both fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance, from GDPR to MiFID II, to customers around the world.

Since Covid-19 the company has been helping distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. This means companies whose staff are working remotely can keep up to date records of all client interactions.

Internet of things specialist Taoglas has launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches in public gatherings in both indoor and outdoor venues.

The solution can also provide a CROWD Insights Wearable Tag, similar in size to an identity badge worn with a lanyard, that delivers automatic contact tracing capability. This is proving vital to business and factory owners as they deploy solutions to ensure business continuity in the event of further outbreaks.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,” says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive and founder of Taoglas.

The solution is quick and easy to install, using existing Wifi systems and collecting anonymised data via smartphones. It offers same day deployment – remotely – via a cloud management platform, whether to healthcare facilities, venues, retail stores, restaurants, airports, cities or towns.

Where social distancing breaches occur, software company NearForm’s mobile tracing app rapidly notifies those who have been in contact with someone who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

The new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app helps curtail the spread of the virus and eliminate the growth of clusters.

Lastly, because social distancing doesn’t reduce the risks posed by the shared use of touch screen devices, Irish coatings specialist Kastus pioneered a solution.

Such devices see high public usage at airport terminals and fast food restaurants. Kastus’s patented technology uses ambient moisture and light as a fuel source to generate oxygen radicals, a type of unstable molecule that contains oxygen, which attach to bacteria and viruses and works to kill them.

Its antimicrobial surface coating is already used by makers of floor tiles for residential, commercial and healthcare settings.

For Kastus founder and CEO John Browne, news that independent testing had proven its efficacy against the novel coronavirus was no surprise. “Our coating is designed to kill superbugs such as e.coli and MRSA but we had a strong degree of confidence that it would work against coronavirus too, and it does,” he says.

Kastus ensures our germs too remain socially distanced.

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