Many employees who have been working from home for the past few months are starting to return to the office, and they’re finding their office is different than the one they left behind.
Employees arriving at Newlab, a Brooklyn, New York tech hub, have their temperature taken and then get a sensor to help maintain social distance. The device is made by StrongArm Technologies. COO Matt Norcia says sensors will go off if people are standing within six feet of each other, and the device will buzz and light up before sounding an alarm if they don't distance themselves from each other.
Max Haot's tech team works in the hub and calls the device a sixth sense. “Obviously you try all the time, 100% of the time, to be socially distant, but you might do something that, you know, involves moving something or you're in a quick team meeting together, and sometimes you can forget,” he says.
The sensors also provide information for contact tracing. “If an individual for some reason was able to get into the facility, but then found out that they might have COVID, we can actually look at every single interaction that individual had with everyone else in the facility,” Norcia says.
StrongArm charges companies about $1 per day for every device in use, and it's not the only company using technology to maintain social distance.
Amazon developed “Distance Assistant.” Cameras lining the workspace send a live feed to a monitor that flashes red if people get too close. Amazon says they plan to open source the software behind their "Distance Assistant" so anyone can create their own.
At Kastle Systems in Arlington, Virginia, thermal cameras screen employees' temperatures. Kastle Systems also installed touchless tech. Workers use a smartphone app to get in the front door, through turnstiles, and into the elevator. “The phone has a credential on it so that you don't have to take out a plastic badge, touch it. It's there, it recognizes that you're close,” says Kastle’s CEO, Haniel Lynn.
Many companies see technology as key to reimagining spaces where employees can once again work together.