Entrepreneurs create app to help companies manage lockdown relaxation
As the days go by, lockdown measures are being lifted and employees are progressively returning to work. We are leaving our homes and the idea of so many people being together is of concern not only to the health authorities but also to the organizations that have to ensure that their day-to-day work is compatible with their employees returning to work from many different environments. To be able to monitor employees' contact with their colleagues, a team of entrepreneurs, with the advice of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), has developed the Cowin-19 app, in conjunction with Enzyme Advising Group, an international consultancy in innovation technology and artificial intelligence.
Management of coronavirus positive test results
Contacts at less than 2 metres for at least 15 minutes. If two or more employees are in the same physical space somewhere on company premises within these parameters, Cowin-19 records the information in its database. Ángel Puertas, entrepreneur with SeniorDomo and one of the driving forces behind the app, explained: "We analyse the physical proximity between employees in the same organization who have downloaded the mobile app. The app on the employees' phones uses Bluetooth to detect that other nearby devices have also downloaded it.” Also, if the employees do not respect the safety distance, their mobile will vibrate as an alert.
Information gathered from the mobiles that have downloaded the app is saved in the system and companies have a web management tool so that their safety or work risk officers can access it. "This way, organizations can manage their workforce's contacts without the safety distance, and when there is a case of COVID-19, they can check the list of people who have been in contact with the person affected to be able to put a contingency plan in place," added Puertas, who received advice from Hubbik, the UOC's entrepreneurship support platform.
Employee simply have to download the app, without needing to do anything else with it as they go about their daily work. They do their work as normal and the app lets the company carry out the appropriate monitoring together with the actions included in its coronavirus prevention plan, such as the frequent control of employees' body temperature or providing COVID-19 tests.
"No one in the company can see who an employee has been with, unless they are declared symptomatic," explained Ángel Puertas. The creators of Cowin-19 insist that the security and privacy of the data gathered by their app are a priority, which is why they encrypt the information and keep it anonymous. "On a regular day," the entrepreneur added, "the tool allows you to see people's profiles, but never who they have been with, unless they are marked as symptomatic, at which point comprehensive information about the contacts they have had is unblocked". In addition, the creators of the app confirmed that the employees receive a notification by email when their company has unblocked their file and is accessing their information. Puertas said: "We are committed to transparent data management, unless it's necessary to use them in the event of a positive test result to try and objectively prevent a coronavirus outbreak."
The creators of Cowin-19 have also used the technology on two other formats: pendant and wristband. In fact, SeniorDomo was created with the development of a wristband to monitor elderly people who need special care, which was one of the winning projects in the 2019 SpinUOC, the UOC's entrepreneurship event. Ángel Puertas said: "We've been contacted by companies that, even though they've put in place protocols for COVID-19, are not finding it at all easy to determine which colleagues their employees may have been in contact with. Also, it should be remembered that an employee who tests positive and has to go to hospital for examination and further tests, is already having to cope with enough of a traumatic experience, so we avoid the need for them to give details to their company about who they've been with."
A solution under way
Álvaro Ortín, CEO of the Enzyme Advising Group, said: "With this initiative, we aim to do our bit to ensure that companies can carry on and help them ease their way into the new normality with the use of technology." The creators of Cowin-19 confirmed that they already have a number of companies who have chosen their solution to manage the return to work in the midst of the pandemic. This is the case of Basque company Emica Bombas, which has some fifty workers and manufactures centrifugal pump and ventilation designs.
"Our company has over 120 years' history, and at different times we've had to adapt to complex circumstances. Changes can mean endless decisions and we are currently experiencing a state of uncertainty," stated Jon Ander Aguirrebengoa, the company's general manager. "Cowin-19 helps us lay down preventive guidelines and lockdown relaxation protocols, as well as react quickly and safely in case of any suspected COVID-19 symptoms to prevent a possible contagion," he added. Aguirrebengoa claimed that the roll-out of the mobile app has been well received by their employees and he encourages its use, as "until we have a similar system for the whole of the population, it's interesting to be able to put this type of technology in place in specific groups like companies. Until now, we've based the protection of our team on individual discipline and a series of measures; the app allows us to go beyond that".