“The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on people’s lives around the world, especially for venue operators, venue visitors, employees, etc. venue owners and businesses of all kinds are eager to return to some extent normal status. It is unrealistic to wait at home for months or years after the coronavirus disappears. Instead, we can gradually take some effective and positive steps to improve the status quo.
Chen Lan, Vice President, North Asia, CommScope Enterprise Networks
The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on people’s lives around the world, especially for venue operators, venue visitors, employees, etc. venue owners and businesses of all kinds are eager to return to some extent normal status. It is unrealistic to wait at home for months or years after the coronavirus disappears. Instead, we can gradually take some effective and positive steps to improve the status quo.
Today, “technology” can help us regain the confidence to return to large venues. In fact, under the epidemic, the world is facing a sense of urgency, and it is urgent to develop a new system to monitor public places and ensure public safety. It is imperative to drive this change.
Basic Safety and Technical Requirements
There are well-established COVID-19 protection mechanisms in China, including wearing masks, maintaining social distancing, measuring body temperature, setting human capacity/congestion thresholds, and contact tracing after exposure. Site managers need to actively cooperate with the implementation of relevant regulations and monitor compliance, and technology is the solution. “Technology” is a relatively broad concept. Specifically, related technology solutions require the major players in the ecosystem to work together to develop solutions for various venues. Among them, there are four key technologies:
• Network Connectivity – Wireless and wired connections are critical and provide conduits for implementing safeguards and monitoring information. The network must be flexible enough to cover all parts of the venue, robust enough to deliver high performance with low latency, and reliable enough to avoid downtime.
・Location and analytics systems – Wi-Fi/IoT-enabled venues are now available with complementary wireless technologies such as BLE wireless beacons and ZigBee embedded in WLAN access points, combined with local machine learning and cloud-based artificial intelligence Its wireless infrastructure can be turned into an indoor positioning engine to further ensure the safety of visitor groups. Also, wireless networks can track location by receiving beacons from mobile devices or tracking devices, such as wristbands, and transmit this information to analytics systems that can understand what is being received. This system is covered by many commercial Wi-Fi systems today.
• Sensors – From infrared temperature sensors to contactless payment systems and cameras, monitoring large crowds requires a range of devices that can see, hear and sense the movement of people and individuals. In addition to leveraging Wi-Fi for positioning, venue managers are looking to integrate the use of smart devices and IoT to aid deployment. These devices include forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras for temperature measurement, smart sensors, and BLE beacons, among others.
• Software Applications – Application-specific software that takes raw data from network analysis systems, evaluates it against preset criteria (such as site density or temperature thresholds), and notifies managers of problem areas.
For example, in large public venues such as stadiums or airports, operators need to monitor thousands of visitors. In this case, the technology ecosystem will use infrared cameras to conduct temperature checks on visitors at the entrance. A Wi-Fi-based location system then monitors visitor activity, traffic density, assists with contact tracing, and alerts venue managers when density reaches a threshold. In addition, human contact can be minimized by connecting to contactless ticketing or payment systems.
In medical institutions, hospitals can keep only one entrance and manually check the temperature of visitors when they enter, or they can use technical solutions to automatically measure the temperature of visitors when they enter the venue through any entrance. The system could also use location-based technology to monitor visitor density or otherwise minimize exposure to COVID-19. For example, when the number of visitors in a ward exceeds a threshold, management can receive alerts, or enable contactless systems for payment and registration.
On campus, open campuses make it difficult for school officials to check students’ temperatures when they enter. The network and related solutions are able to monitor the temperature of students and staff, as well as crowding in hallways or classrooms. In addition, a smoke detection system connected to the Wi-Fi access point monitors the bathroom for smoking and notifies the administrator.
Location Technology Challenges and Solutions
Positioning information is a critical part of many health and safety applications, but indoor GPS has been challenged because GPS satellites operate at frequencies that are difficult to penetrate building structures, especially for visitors walking through buildings or venues. Typically, since distributed antenna systems (DAS) and macrocell base stations also support location services in emergencies, indoor GPS may be a security risk if it cannot provide precise positioning at critical moments.
In response to this problem, Wi-Fi positioning technology has a role to play. Using signal triangulation and RF fingerprinting, the location technology records X, Y, Z coordinates and passes them to the location engine for mapping. Through a robust set of application programming interfaces (APIs), this information is available northbound to ecosystem partners specializing in indoor and venue location applications. In addition, many companies have not only leveraged the built-in API and gateway capabilities of Wi-Fi access points for location and IoT integration, but have also customized dedicated dashboards to manage COVID-19 risk events and triggering events such as social distancing, Personnel capacity thresholds, contact tracing, etc.
Wi-Fi-assisted DAS deployment to ensure public safety
In addition to providing broadband connectivity, another benefit of deploying Wi-Fi in a venue is that when deploying a Distributed Antenna Solution (DAS) in a Wi-Fi area, it can complement GPS technology without the need for additional Wi-Fi hardware defect. When a user alerts via a mobile device, the device scans for nearby Wi-Fi access points and Bluetooth beacons to determine its indoor location. If these Wi-Fi access points have been stored in the emergency database of the state or relevant departments, and the database includes dispatchable address information such as street address, floor, etc., the access point can send this information directly from the call center to the emergency personnel . And all of this happens automatically when dialing an emergency number on a mobile device, eliminating the need to duplicate existing Wi-Fi or Bluetooth beacon networks.
The use of these technologies means we can program our infrastructure to see trends and predict potential problems, allowing alert systems to proactively monitor the venue and each visitor for transmission risk. Essentially, by collecting and analyzing data, the system can conduct real-time risk assessments. Going further, the system can recommend and implement specific logical or physical changes to the network or site environment to help maintain public safety.
For example, a Wi-Fi location analysis system not only helps to determine whether there is a crowded situation, but also calculates the target dwell time to determine the degree of exposure. Such data can be used to determine whether certain areas of a venue pose a higher risk for the spread of COVID-19, or whether new footfall configurations can more effectively separate visitors or employees in specific areas.
Connection is critical
Wireless technology and location information can help us return to sports, travel, hotels, transportation and business more safely, making a difference for public health and safety, just to name a few. When relevant data such as devices, distances and locations are properly correlated and can be transmitted, received and shared in real-time over a converged smart network infrastructure, there are more possibilities for delivering health and safety services.
Internet connectivity has become a convenience for billions of Internet users, helping people get back to normal by providing connectivity and services. Over the past decade, network system providers and their ecosystem partners have been working to improve user experience and business operations. At the moment of the epidemic, we must all devote ourselves to the practical application of public health and safety services.