Automated analytics helps keep people safe and flatten the COVID-19 curve
Back in February, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was on a business trip in the Middle East. I clearly remember the manual screening process in the airport, where each passenger was led by an employee towards a thermal camera for a temperature reading. Each passenger was then passed to another employee who guided them out of the screening section. It was painfully slow, incredibly labor intensive, and likely a very expensive process.
I didn’t think much about it until the middle of March when the pandemic picked up and our Chennai factory was shut down due to COVID-19 infections, and a local government directive. Something started to click with me. We knew we had the in-house technology to process thermal streams, so we gathered together with our R&D team to figure out an automated detection solution that required minimal to no supervision, was privacy compliant, had built-in connectivity and had the ability for organizations to go back and look at previous events.
We looked at integrating streams from thermal cameras with our advanced analytics, business rules engine, and ubiquitous connectivity with full automation. This would ensure improved safety for individuals at the facility while bringing a more efficient, cost-effective, and seamless detection process.
The outcome is the creation of Nokia Automated Analytics Solution for Access Control, a truly innovative platform that combined three products from the Nokia portfolio, which ticked all the boxes and met our stringent requirements for privacy.
SpaceTime Scene Analytics uses machine learning and advanced analytics in processing the thermal video images for temperature and mask compliance rules. Nokia’s Integrated Operations Center (IOC) takes the information provided by Scene Analytics and uses its business rules engine to automate contextual action workflows, while also providing visualization and report generation capabilities. And the Nokia Digital Automation Cloud provides connectivity to deliver uninterrupted private wireless coverage required to support locations that typically would not be easily accessible.
When comparing manual versus automated solutions, we learned the thermal camera temperature reading was significantly more accurate than a handheld infrared thermometer. The automated solution also had much faster processing times allowing employees to more smoothly enter facilities without queuing, thereby saving time. Lastly, the automation brought cost-savings of about €80k, and reduced COVID-19 exposure to workers who were previously conducting manual testing using a handheld thermometer.
Finally, when designing our solution we ensured compliance of local health and safety policies while safeguarding individuals' privacy. This is what we at Nokia call ‘privacy by design’. The solution has a built-in capability to mask or blur faces, an option to manage privacy-settings that suits various compliance requirements, and provides each organization the choice of keeping the data, such as images and clips, at its location and under its control.
Our learnings, the pandemic today and beyond
Beyond the pandemic, the open architecture of our solution allows organizations to transition the platform to other use-cases such as predictive surveillance and machine maintenance, quality inspection, and detection of anomalies and security threats. All of these use-cases will generate business value in the form of productivity and efficiency, business continuity and resiliency of operations, and ensure the safety of workers around the world.
The events over the last six months have given us an opportunity to reimagine and innovate within our R&D teams and factory floors. The result of this innovation will help keep people safe and healthy, help organizations comply with local COVID-19 policies, and ultimately allow companies to get back to business.