After almost a year of working from home, shopping online (not my fav, I am more tactile!), wearing a mask to the grocery store, and eating home cooked meals with the occasional take-out, I’m inching my way back to our office in Fairfax, VA, and hoping restaurants, shopping, and travel will soon follow.
Of course, I have concerns, as I am sure many do, about the safety and health of returning to a workspace, browsing retail stores, and venturing out to see not only loved ones but every place we have dreamed of going during the past year. We all want to have confidence that as we start to return to the world, it is safe. We want to feel what we haven’t for most of the year – we want to feel secure.
Luckily, I work for Schneider Electric and I am excited we have joined with our partners Intel and World Wide Technology on a project to help mitigate the risk of spreading infectious diseases throughout commercial buildings like offices, retail stores, restaurants, and transportation facilities.
As we find our way to our next chapter, a few concerns are at the top of my mind.
Mitigating the spread of infectious disease with smart buildings
Digital transformation and the Internet of Things are at the forefront of our return, taking advantage of thermal scanning, building management systems (BMSs), and smart building technologies. Integrating sensors and smart building apps with building controls will play a key role in detecting, mitigating, and responding to infectious disease risks. IT will also help assure people who are returning to work, shops, and public buildings that it’s safe to open and enter those doors again. COVID-19 has created a need for further expansion of all these systems to create healthier and safer environments.
Building Management Systems take on heightened importance in keeping people safe
BMSs have been typically implemented as simple HVAC controls with, possibly, minor lighting, fire, and access control systems. With health and safety on the line, integrating the HVAC and BMS along with sensors and apps will help to not just identify, but mitigate infectious disease transmission risks in buildings. Once sensors identify a threat, building controls can respond automatically to minimize the risk by controlling the systems they operate like closing air ducts and entry doors for public safety.
We are working to deliver innovative solutions that are simple, efficient, cost effective, and scalable. The need for these solutions is driving Schneider Electric’s recent and on-going collaboration with WWT and Intel, which integrates its new infrared thermometer system with Schneider’s EcoStruxure ™ Building platform. Combining our building offers and wellness sensors and WWT’s TESTD solution: Targeted Elevated Thermal Signature Detector means that detecting fever as a primary symptom regardless of environmental factors can be proactively managed and monitored remotely from any device. Our latest white paper takes a deep dive into these issues: White Paper 506: Reducing Infectious Disease Risks with Smart Building Technologies and Management Systems.
Technology like that behind the infrared thermometer system has a significant role to play in keeping people safe. Through smart building technologies, we can begin to securely monitor and manage social distancing and health screening within buildings. This is a first step in solutions that will evolve as we move forward.
The future depends on what we do in the present
Like you, I’m not sure what the future holds, but I am looking forward to some normalcy – to the day when wearing a mask and six feet of separation are a thing of the past. But as Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.” Businesses have significant threats to consider as we move forward, such as public safety, financial loss, and, perhaps, a negative impact on reputation. Ensuring that business continues to operate as smoothly as possible is key to successfully re-opening, and a strong safety plan can boost confidence in a safe return.