Retail businesses have been especially badly affected by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, with many shops having to close their doors for the duration of the multi-month lockdown. However, with the gradual easing of restrictions starting to begin and more people being encouraged to return to work, many companies are now looking to reopen and begin the process of recovery from this long period of inactivity.
However, the coronavirus still poses a significant amount of risk to the population, meaning that many customers may be reticent to return to retail environments straight away. This makes it imperative that those customers that do choose to go out and spend their money are well taken care of and are not exposed to the disease. Whilst basic measures such as enforcing social distancing regulations and wearing facemasks may go some way towards achieving this, there is one major way in which retailers can start using modern tech to prevent the virus from gaining a foothold in their stores by identifying the symptoms as quickly as possible. This method is body temperature monitoring.
Shopping Centre Problems
Stores and shopping centres have a batch of problems that are specific to their particular circumstances and which significantly outweigh the challenges faced by other industries. Firstly, unlike other businesses such as manufacturing plants or offices, retail hotspots have lots of different people constantly transiting through the area and potentially bringing the virus with them, meaning that there is a constant threat level. Secondly, many larger stores have big expanses of open space and different departments for customers and staff to move around, meaning that a single highly mobile carrier of the disease could potentially infect many people in a very short space of time. Whilst they are at risk from customers, retail staff can also get infected by each other, backroom workers or delivery people. This means that whatever method is used to screen people for symptoms of COVID-19, it will need to be capable of dealing with multiple people quickly, be able to cover wide areas and will also need to be able to be deployed in a variety of settings.
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What is Thermal Body Scanning?
Thermal body scanning is a technique that relies on thermal imaging hardware to quickly examine people and determine the level of their core body temperature. If their temperature is above baseline (37.5 degrees centigrade) by a noticeable degree and they don't have any other noticeable symptoms, then there is a good chance that they may be infected with the coronavirus. This is because an elevated temperature is one of the first signs of the virus' presence in the body. At this point, a judgement can be made as to whether or not they can continue to be in the shop. This technique can be used on employees and customers alike, providing a level playing field that is open and transparent and arbitrated by the scanning machines, lessening the possibility of arguments or confrontation. This means that infected people can be kept out of the workplace and the risk of subsequent infections is cut, reducing the possibility of large numbers of staff being incapacitated and ensuring a higher level of customer safety.
The scanners themselves typically don't need to be manually operated by employees, instead they operate passively and trigger an alarm when an elevated temperature is detected, letting workers know about the potential risk. The scanners come in three main types: fixed cameras, moveable cameras and turnstile integrated cameras. The turnstile integrated cameras are similar in appearance and function to a turnstile at a train station, being designed to be positioned in areas like main entrances so that people can quickly determine if they are allowed access or not. The moveable cameras consist of a small thermal imaging camera and screen, mounted on a stand and can be positioned wherever managers desire for maximum usefulness. These are best suited to restaurants or employee areas, where they can be used to check workers and visitors’ status. The fixed cameras meanwhile, function in a similar manner to security cameras, providing coverage of a wider area and scan multiple people very quickly. The fixed cameras can even be set up on a tripod for ease of deployment.
All of these systems can be linked to mobile devices or workstations via mobile phone signals, forgoing the need for a complex setup process and making them a plug-in solution for dealing with the crisis. This connection can then be used to remotely monitor the imaging feeds and to interact with the cameras. Furthermore, the solution can be configured to send a notification to workers in the event that a high temperature is detected, so that the workstations don’t need to be constantly manned.
The devices also lend themselves to specific roles, with fixed cameras being easily suited for use around the main entrances of shops, allowing the maximum amount of people to flow through unimpeded, lessening the chances of a crowd forming and resulting in coronavirus transmission. The other scanners can be left to provide passive coverage for bottlenecks and open areas with fewer people and ensure distancing can be maintained between back-end staff like stockers and warehouse operatives and outside personnel like delivery drivers.
However, it is also important to clearly communicate the purpose of the devices to shoppers. This can be done via signage accompanying that on the machines, so customers know what to do in the event they are flagged by the device as being at-risk. Furthermore, these measures can be complemented by handheld scanners for staff members to quickly use on each other, also providing a solution for smaller businesses who lack the resources or the need to install larger temperature monitoring devices.
The thermal body scanning devices that can be obtained from ANT are designed specifically with modularity and ease of use kept in mind, allowing retailers to mix and match products in order to find the solution that suits their location and requirements. Whether large crowds are anticipated in a sizeable shopping arcade or smaller numbers are likely to appear in a more confined shop, thermal imaging tools can provide a defence. When coupled with sensible physical precautions, temperature monitoring provides a solid and clearly visible way to both help prevent coronavirus transmission and to regain the confidence of employees and customers alike.
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