How video can help with social distancing – and offer a way out of lockdown
Words: Neil Killick, Leader of Strategic Business (EMEA), Milestone Systems
Now there is early talk of easing the lockdown, many governments and businesses are still working out how, in practical terms, this can be achieved. Contact tracing apps, extensive testing programmes and ‘health passports’ have been proposed as preconditions for the easing of the lockdown in the UK.
However, despite these things, social distancing measures such as staying at least two metres away from other people and wearing face coverings in close quarters will remain in place for some time. In Wuhan, despite official lockdown restrictions being eased, many organisations are keeping social distancing measures in place voluntarily.
Video technology can play a key role in ensuring people maintain a safe distance from each other and making public transport, shops, offices and other workplaces, safe for those who use them.
Reducing the risk to police and key workers
Physically monitoring people to ensure they remain apart from each other is an activity that puts police officers, transport workers, shop assistants and other key workers at risk of infection. That’s where video technology can assist, by giving on-the-ground insights into potential over-crowding and non-adherence, while keeping workers at a safe distance from those aforementioned crowds.
Ensuring public safety
For example, using video technology, the public sector can gain insights on the parts of a city that are most crowded and when, alerts when pedestrians are getting too close to each other, and any potential incidents at the entry to buildings and in public spaces. Giving them the ability to proactively prevent issues before they arise and threaten public safety.
Video analytics is now so advanced that it can even differentiate between families and children who maintain a close distance and groups of adults who should not be crowding together.
In the private sector, advanced video analytics can help to prevent overcrowding inside and outside of retail spaces and workplaces, by counting people as they enter premises or queue outside. This prevents a security guard or shop assistant from having to stand with a crowd, manually counting them and putting themselves in danger. It also ensures that building owners adhere to rules on capacity.
The same technology can also aid in enforcing ‘one-way’ routes through stores, train platforms and other spaces, by identifying when pedestrians have deviated from the prescribed routes and are moving against the flow of traffic.
Video can additionally identify the areas in a shop, station, workplace or public space that typically have the highest occupancy rates. Heatmaps can help building managers quickly identify potential problem spots where infection may occur, and deploy preventative measures like mounting digital signs to inform of alternative routes or areas, dispatching enforcement personnel, or using a PA announcement to ask people to move.
Finally, when integrated with access control systems, a video management system (VMS) can allow people to access their workplaces without touching doorknobs or fingerprint readers. Providing further protection against COVID-19 which can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours.
Adjusting to our new norm
The world as we know it has changed and will continue to be disrupted for some time. Public bodies and businesses must come to terms with this new normal and the responsibilities owed to citizens and workers in keeping them safe from infection. Video will be a vital tool in keeping people at a suitable distance, preventing crowding and proactively addressing hotspots – without also placing enforcement staff at risk. Used in combination with social distancing, contact tracing and other technology, video provides a way for the UK to come out of lockdown safely.