5 IoT Implementations for Social Distancing Management

Automate Social Distancing through IoT Sensing Technology

WHY KEEP YOUR DISTANCE?

The CDC recommends people maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other to stop the spread of the COVID-19. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you — or they — do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

WHAT HAS CHANGED THAT MAKES SOCIAL DISTANCING NECESSARY?

There is no doubt that managing where and how many people are occupying a building and various rooms is remarkably different than before March of 2020. This includes everything from how employees can dress, to other physical changes like plexiglass dividers, hand-washing stations, sanitizer stations, and even routine temperature checks. While cleanliness and safety have always been a core part of building operations, management and facilitators are now presenting visual cues that people can associate with high-frequency cleaning to give the returning workforce a sense of security that they’ve come into a safe place.

“Many service organizations can’t implement remote work for all of their employees due to the lack of available infrastructure, the physical nature of some service and support roles, or because of union contracts.” — Deborah Alvord, Senior Analyst at Gartner

Is this what employees, customers, and visitors want to see? Or is there a certain point where these measures become inhospitable and off-putting? After all, these physical changes are anything but normal and it’s the responsibility of building managers to deliver extraordinary experiences.

Many organizations are implementing sensing technology solutions that enable them to make data-driven decisions to support health and safer engagement while upholding industry standards and providing a consistent people experience as we all adapt.

WHO DOES THIS IMPACT?

A variety of public places, such as high-speed service areas and more:

  • Restrooms
  • Airports
  • Tourist Attractions
  • Mass Transit
  • Hotels
  • Shopping Malls
  • Schools
  • Hospitals
  • Office Buildings

With new requirements for social distancing, there is an interest and need to deploy sensor technology to help in understanding visitor and guest behavior as it relates to visitor traffic flow and crowd density management.

States are also restricting access to in-dining restaurants, theaters, concert halls, some retail stores and other non-essential businesses where large groups of people risk coming into close contact with one another. Additionally, public health officials and experts have warned Americans to stay home as much as possible and avoid doing anything that requires close contact. Many other businesses have voluntarily closed to protect their employees and the public as a whole. Perhaps the most visible closure has been the nearly universal shutdown of the professional sports industry. Those exposed to the virus have been advised to self-quarantine for at least 14 days which have presented financial challenges for workers without paid sick leave.

HOW CAN IT BE MANAGED TODAY?

Time-based metrics are ideal for quantifying the journey and engagement people are making throughout their experience within a building. The amount of time a customer or visitor or employee stays inside is traditionally correlated with making a purchase or clocking in. Retailers, public spaces, and building managers can leverage new sensing technologies to determine engagement thresholds and optimal engagement times to assist in social distancing with minimal disturbance. This allows for more freedom for employees and visitors to walk around without a sense of privacy being invaded. Furthermore, this data collection does not only improve social distancing, but also provides valuable revenue generating insight.

For example, data may show that in an apparel store, the engagement threshold for white sneakers was over 15 seconds, but there was a much higher threshold for vintage concert t-shirts. In analyzing this data, it might make sense for the retailer to shift the white sneaker display closer to the dressing rooms or checkout area, where customers are more likely to linger. These are the same data points used to enforce social distancing. Rather than focusing on the product, the focus is on how many people are gathering together and how far are they from each other? Would a notification to staff be useful to cease unhealthy space utilization scenarios? Is an object or objects preventing the staff from maintaining a safe distance?

By capturing people in motion, the solutions garnered from the data generate performance metrics and actionable insights for behavior analytics that improve the operations.

Such technology enables organizations of all types to optimize indoor experiences to reduce common friction points and increase conversions and profits, checking all three of those boxes.

Additionally, sensing solutions feature superior range, resolution and field-of-view compared to ultrasonic or other tracking technology. Installers may deploy them behind the ceiling or walls to improve aesthetics and deliver more reliable data while addressing privacy concerns.

IoT Suppliers & Automation

Use Case 1: Conference Room Management

Use of these common conference rooms can become unwieldy to manage — even with a professional office manager — and so the sensing technology creates a user-friendly solution to count, confirm, and alert on how rooms are being utilized. Sometimes people reserve a conference room on a calendar but end up not needing the space because of a last-minute change — but the calendar doesn’t get updated, leading to unused conference rooms. Other times, people may hold an impromptu meeting in a conference room they haven’t reserved, stepping in to discuss confidential business. Furthermore, conference rooms demand both privacy and assurance that proper social distancing requirements are being obliged.

Alexa enabled Conference Room Occupancy Detection

Through sensing, managers obtain real-time occupancy status of any conference room by simply speaking or observing a screen. We’ve experienced organizations using Internet-enabled microcontrollers so the whole system can be monitored and controlled by voice command, using Amazon’s Alexa.

This touch-less solution also provides a safer approach to manage spaces where alternating shifts occur regularly. This delivers an easy experience and peace of mind.

Use Case 2: Crowd Density Management

Social distancing is part of our new normal and buildings now have a responsibility to protect both staff and visitors by monitoring and maintaining occupancy to prevent further infections or waves of the virus. Sensing technology ensures optimal social distancing throughout the building by enabling accurate counts of people entering and leaving a space (such as main corridor or high traffic meeting space like a cafeteria) and provides a reliable understanding of a frequently changing environment.

While cameras are good at recording what’s happening, sensors provide data points such as presence information, the number of people in a given area, where people are located within the sensor field-of-view, as well as the distance between people. This data can be aggregated and analyzed to gain insights on crowd density and visitor traffic flow.

By analyzing this data, operations managers can anticipate and mitigate transmission risks before they happen. By knowing the real-time occupancy and utilization of common amenity spaces, staff and visitors can manage occupancy to maintain social distancing, adjust cleaning services, food and beverage, and staffing to match real-time attendance.

Use Case 3: Building Automation

In order to accurately manage social distancing, you need real-time signal processing. In advanced building automation, use cases such as management of HVAC, smart security lighting and fire safety systems become invaluable. mmWave sensors use onboard processing to reduce false detection by ignoring signatures of static objects that are not of concern, such as chairs and desks, and even dynamic objects like fans.

Sensors can count the number of people in a room and determine where they are located. This data can be used to adjust the HVAC and lighting systems automatically to ensure the optimal balance of comfort and cost savings. This also removes interaction with high touchpoint areas, like light switches and thermostats, to further reduce the risk of transmission. In another example, sensors can send automated alerts to service spaces and lounge areas after a set number of visits.

All of this is a helpful way to deliver a high level of consistency and cleanliness, without invading or disrupting the experience of your customers, visitors, and staff.

Use Case 4: Restroom Utilization

Smart sensors serve people. Being “smart” is having precise acknowledgment of people.

Through an interactive display, sensors lets users and managers understand the occupancy of the room. This improves the experience of the users and the cleaning management of the room.

Occupancy Detection in Restroom

There have already been multiple successfully deployed smart bathroom projects to achieve toilet seat detection and human flow statistics. Success has been measured over the low cost, low power, easy installation and proven detection accuracy of sensing technology.

A proper mmWave sensor can detect if a person or object is stationary, micro-moving or moving. Consider a person in the restroom typing on their phone or tapping their feet. Sensors can capture that motion discretely.

Sensing solutions are not affected by lighting conditions and are extremely robust to adverse conditions such as dust and smoke. This makes them the optimal solution for indoor and outdoor restroom operations.

More wins:

  • No Camera means no privacy or sensitive issues
  • Ultra-low power consumption. The radiation is only one-tenth of Bluetooth which is harmless to human body
  • Long detection distance which is suitable for various installation heights
  • The detection range can be set freely, which is suitable for spatial areas of different sizes and shapes
  • Not affected by environmental obstacles, such as smoke, dirt, low light, heat sources, etc.
  • No regular maintenance is needed. Updates occur over WiFi
  • The device can be easily hidden hidden in wood or plastic ceiling

Use Case 5: People Counting

In many situations, keeping track of people entering and exiting a building, room, public transit, or another densely occupied space is a manual process. How many times have you sat in a train watching an employee rush by as she clicks away while passing each occupied seat?

Aggregated data provides powerful insights to more effectively and efficiently count, track and remove friction points in high traffic areas. Not only does it keep automated count of humans entering and exiting, but it also provides extraordinary protection to society.

People Counting for Every Business

Companies seeking to develop smart building, people counting, crowd monitoring, industrial safety and other applications can use sensors for near real-time decision-making and signal processing.

Sensors can be mounted over doorways, restroom stalls, and even behind ceiling tiles to keep an accurate count of how many people are entering and exiting while also recording valuable occupancy information to help building managers consider how to improve space utilization.

Multiple sensors can be placed in various locations and connected using a single bus. Data from each unit can be transferred to a central hub to perform further actions such as provide notifications when a room reaches max capacity or reveal an availability for more patron participation such as an empty restaurant table.

People Counting Case Study

The Limitations of existing technology

The PIR infrared human motion sensor is cheap, but the disadvantage is that it cannot detect stationary people. When the people in the room have limited motion or do not move, it will cause detection errors. In addition, large changes to an air conditioner, ventilation fan, and temperature differ between indoor and outdoor rooms can cause false alarms.

Infrared ranging sensors are generally installed above a toilet seat to determine if the stall is occupied through a change of the sensor range. The disadvantage of this scheme is that the range is short, the accuracy is low, and the recognition of objects is not accurate. This is why it is prone to false alarms and the installation height is limited to 2 meters.

The single-point ranging laser sensor is a relatively novel sensing method, similar to the infrared ranging sensor. It is also installed directly above the toilet to detect the change in the distance of the obstacle to determine whether it is occupied. The problem of the single-point ranging laser sensor is that the detection range is small and it can only cover the area of the 3–5cm radius circle directly below the sensor. Therefore, when personnel deviates from the outside, the detection will be invalid. In addition, this will also bring challenges to the actual project layout, because there are usually other facilities such as lights, exhaust fans, etc. above the toilet, resulting in more requirements and restrictions in actual construction.

Imagine a solution that could facilitate people counting, restroom utilization, building automation, crowd density, and conference room management…

Introducing the 60GHz WAYV Air

WAYV Air is based on radar sensing technology and features a compact form factor, low cost and power consumption. It’s the ideal sensing module for detecting and tracking people in indoor environments.

WAYV Air is ideal for:

  • Conference Room Management
  • Crowd Density Management
  • Occupancy Detection
  • People Counting
  • People Tracking
  • Building Automation

Applications include:

  • Lighting Control
  • Surveillance & Security
  • Space Utilization
  • Emergency Response
  • HVAC Control
  • Home Health Monitoring
  • Retail Management

Advantages of the 60GHz Frequency

The 60GHz frequency band has long been underutilized, but offers tremendous potential for developing within-building sensing applications. It is ideal for building automation applications, as it enables sensors to accurately sense the range, velocity and angle of objects in a scene. The 60GHz band enables expanded use of mmWave technology, while providing high resolution needed for industrial environments.

In the United States, the 60GHz falls into a band of unlicensed frequencies, which are free for all to use in any way they see fit, so long as they don’t cause undue interference with other applications. The 60GHz frequency is a mmWave frequency, which is a general class of technologies that has gained increasing popularity in the past decade. One reason for this growing popularity is due to its short wavelength, which is less able to travel through walls and buildings.

In many technology use cases to date, this has been a disadvantage, as we seek radio signals to travel through walls and building for uses like Wi-Fi connectivity. However, with the proliferation of radio signals flying through our airwaves today, there is an increased desire and need on the part of some users for signals which remain contained to a defined space — and something that 60GHz technologies can help to achieve.

Technical Specifications

The patch antennas are designed to be small enough to fit in this spacing and give enough room for the routing.

Designing the module to fit in the limited real estate and the required performance metrics requires special consideration. One of the main goals of the WAYV Air module is to achieve equal resolution in azimuth and elevation planes. Hence, this requires placement of the transmit and receive antennas in distinctive locations which creates a virtual antenna array with an equal number of antennas in both planes. To achieve a ±90° unambiguous field of view (FOV), the spacing between the four receive antennas was designed to be half wavelength, while the three transmit antennas are separated by a wavelength. This results in a 4x2 grid in both the elevation and azimuth planes.

The patch antennas are designed to be small enough to fit in this spacing and give enough room for the routing. To adhere to the half wavelength spacing for the receive antennas, RX1 and RX4 antennas had to be flipped by 180°. Designing the patch antenna with this in mind ensures that flipping of the antennas would not cause significant performance variance between each of the four receive antennas.

Another challenge that arises from this placement is the routing, as all four receive antennas and all three transmit antennas had to be length matched, respectively. At mmWave frequencies, long traces with significant curves can degrade the performance of the antennas. As the routing of RX1 and RX4 is quite different from RX2 and RX3, precautions must be taken to ensure the gain and phase are not notably different between each element across the bandwidth.

Technical Specifications for WAYV Air
WAYV Air Technical Drawing

About Ainstein

Our mission is to enable safer driving, flying, working and living through radar-based technology. We are in the business of improving safety and protecting valuable assets through innovations in radar technology.

Ainstein makes radar systems smarter, more affordable and easier to deploy. We offer complete solutions for autonomous drones, advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), autonomous vehicles and industrial sensing — incorporating a combination of millimeter wave (mmWave) radar, sensor fusion and artificial intelligence (AI).

For years, cost, weight and performance constraints have hindered the wider adoption of radar. Ainstein makes radar systems accessible to everyone by overcoming these constraints. One recent innovation: we’ve developed the world’s first UAV collision avoidance radar with 4D detection.

Radar systems and sensor data processing intelligence are keys to our autonomous future. We offer deep scientific, mathematical and engineering expertise along with a full spectrum portfolio (24GHz, 60GHZ, 76–81GHz) of hardware and software to support our customers in developing highly customized solutions with unmatched precision in unpredictable environments.

Our core team has more than a combined 100 years of experience in radar research and development with deep knowledge gained through projects funded by NASA, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the European Space Agency and others.

Other radar companies are at least two to three years behind Ainstein. Startups have been slow to market and are unable to produce at scale, while established companies are slow to adopt the newest technological innovations.

Ainstein products can be fully customized to specific application requirements, have unmatched precision in ALL weather conditions and surface types, and are a fraction of the price of competitive products.

Visit our website (www.ainstein.ai/partner) for more information, or get in touch through hi@ainstein.ai to arrange a discussion.

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