To help plan for a return to work, businesses should consider leveraging IoT insights at the edge

By | 2 minute read | May 7, 2020

In the current climate, many businesses have pivoted to a remote workforce, but this option may not be equally accessible across industries. Organizations that operate by serving customers and citizens – like manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and government – are less likely to be able to maintain full operations remotely.

Businesses in these industries are likely to be eager to quickly and, above all else, safely plan for employees to return to the workplace following the guidance from national and local governments. In 2018, An estimated 12.7 million workers were employed in the US manufacturing sector, and, about 1.14M workers in the US warehouse & storage industry, with more employed across retail, healthcare, and government.

How can organizations support a return to the workplace given the COVID-19 crisis?

In addition to following the return to work guidelines issued by CDC and federal, state, and local governments, to help support a return to the workplace, businesses should consider leveraging technology solutions – like edge computing, 5G and IoT –  to gain insights that can help protect employee health and promote workplace safety. Edge computing can be a strong alternative to cloud processing for near real-time data access.

Employee Health

Employers will need to rethink their strategy to help protect their employees’ health and safety while at work.  One option to consider is to leverage technology and systems, such as:

  • Infra-red (IR) cameras set up at key entry points can screen individuals with higher basal body- temperature in order to quickly detect possible fevers.
  • Connected wearable devices can monitor employee health factors such as oxygen level, heart rate, blood pressure changes, and respiration rate.

Workplace Environment Safety

Operations-intensive areas such as manufacturing shop floor, warehouses, distribution centers, and commercial office spaces can often be congested, so leveraging technology to glean insights about the status of the work environment can be helpful.

  • Optical cameras can help identify increases in the crowd density of certain areas, and notify if there is a breach of preset business rules such as the number of people limited to each zone.
  • Bluetooth beacons can help detect proximity of employees to one another based on social distancing norms in the company premises.
  • Leveraging the insights from multiple locations can help identify areas of needed focus as well as leverage best practices back across the enterprise.

Edge computing is a strong option

Real-time data access is key in order to quickly identify potential safety concerns in the workplace. In this scenario, edge computing can potentially be a stronger option than cloud processing. If data must be sent to a central cloud, analyzed there and returned to the edge, there can be a lag in data processing, high data cost, and need for always-on internet connection. If businesses utilize edge computing there can be potential advantages –

  • Businesses can capture and analyze data locally
  • Eliminates the need for storing a lot of data on cloud, which can potentially result in lower operating costs
  • Reduces the need for huge real-time event processing on cloud
  • Sensor data is continuously monitored, not stored, and the system triggers an alarm only if it detects an anomaly

For organizations where remote operations is not an option and are planning to bring workers back under the proper guidance, consider technology when developing your strategy.