How Location-Based Technology Can Ensure Business Continuity During COVID-19 Times Now that the businesses are back to cranking their wheels, the questions that are on top of the mind of most CXOs and CEOs are-how do we implement hygiene measures, testing and social distancing measures at the workplace

By Dr Rajeev Saraf

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Recently, as per the guidelines of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of lockdown extension has allowed most of the businesses to open with certain limitations and guidelines. The centre has now empowered the states and the UTs to define areas as red, green, orange, or containment zones based on certain risk parameters shared by the Health Ministry of India. Containment zones are at the highest risk where no business or movement can operate except for emergency services.

As of May 24, 2020, there are more than 7,500 containment zones across 950+ towns and this number is increasing daily, which is quite overwhelming. Now that the businesses are back to cranking their wheels, the questions that are on top of the mind of most CXOs and CEOs are—how do we implement hygiene measures, testing and social distancing measures at the workplace. How does one assess the risk of my employees before they come to the workplace, and how does one know which customers cannot be serviced as they may be in containment zone or high-risk areas. Lastly, which of one's assets such as factory, warehouse, retail outlets, and markets are non-accessible. Understanding COVID-19 risks of customers and markets is also important for planning their production and supply chain.

Businesses fear that a single positive COVID-19 case can shut down their factory or office and this fear is not unfounded. While business entities have implemented personal hygiene and widespread testing measures, the biggest worry for them is social distancing. This is where location-based technologies have been of great help and have provided multiple solutions. Several applications are available today for contact tracing and social distancing. These applications use Bluetooth and GPS technologies and can be used for small offices and large workplaces. Some of these applications also use IoT and RFID to provide tracking within large factory areas. These applications track employees in real-time and generate alerts using georeferencing when two employees come close to one another. However, privacy is a big concern with these applications as some employees may get tracked outside the office or outside of work hours.

The Government of India has also launched a contact-tracing application called Aarogya Setu, which is helping government public health agencies identify the high-risk individuals based on self-declaration and their proximity to COVID-19 patients. While Aarogya Setu tells about the risk profile of an individual, there is no other way for organisations to assess the risk status of their employees or customers before they reach their workplace. Also, with only around 30% penetration of smartphones in India, Aarogya Setu has a limited reach.

Similarly, there are various no-contact software solutions launched recently. Such software maps containment zones and hotspots across India by using Google Maps based on the government data and then provides the risk profile of an employee, a customer or an asset in real-time based on their address. It identifies the zone (red, orange, green and containment zone) in which an address lies, and the locations of the hotspots in/around that area.

For instance, an e-commerce or logistics company can easily identify a customer in a high-risk area and defer their service; mobility companies like Ola and Uber can check if a trip is possible based on the risk assessment of the destination in real-time, while FMCG and retail companies can use it to locate the stores that can open and manage the supply chain accordingly.

Couple of weeks ago, Apple and Google, jointly, released Exposure Notification APIs (earlier known as "Contact Tracing") for use by public health and government agencies. The API uses Bluetooth to detect if an individual (phone) has been in the vicinity of others who have tested positive. Google and Apple claim that their solution does not collect or use the location from the device. The user also has a choice to opt-out.

Companies now have these location-based solutions to ensure business continuity during COVID-19 crisis situation. Adopt them wisely—stay safe, vigilant, and ensure smooth business operations.

Dr Rajeev Saraf

CEO & Founder, Lepton Software

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