New mobile mesh technology and virtual geozones can help facilities management services reopen safely, says Alastair Williamson, CEO at Wyld Networks
Facilities management professionals have been keeping key workers safe through their management of hospitals, schools, factories and critical transport infrastructure.
Now, with the Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out, they have to turn their attention to dealing with the practical steps needed to get us all back to work. Many are looking at how technology can help them achieve this.
Enable social distancing
Problems persist with the national track and trace app, and it does not address all the challenges of running safe indoor environments. That’s where new mobile mesh technology could offer a solution to help ensure social distancing and provide better location-aware alerts and safety information by creating virtual geozones.
A mobile mesh harnesses the power of peoples’ mobile devices by connecting smartphones directly to other smartphones and other internet connected devices without the need for cellular 4G/5G or Wi-Fi.
Data simply finds the quickest and easiest route by hopping between phones, powered by existing or new company mobile apps, which all staff, contractors and visitors would be required to download. Because it does not use conventional networks, the mobile mesh works in remote locations, underground or at sites with connectivity challenges.
Each smartphone can connect with up to six other devices within range and each of those six other devices can connect to up to another six devices, and so on – creating a mass expansive, robust and self-healing resilient mesh network through multi-hop routing.
Facilities managers can send real-time messages and notifications to provide up-to-date advice and guidance and to remind people to wear face masks as well as safety clothing where necessary, for example.
Create virtual geozones
One of the key innovations around mobile mesh technology is the ability to create virtual geozones around complete buildings, as well as internal zones and floors, or dangerous or restricted areas.
By creating personal one or two metre geozones around individual staff or visitors – or more specifically their smartphones – this opens up a wide range of location-aware applications, previously not possible.
For example, the mesh network can provide digital access management, while the analysis of data and the use of graphical ‘heat maps’ provides visualisation of patterns of movement to make informed decisions on routing, work practices and social distancing. And by integrating a mesh network of smartphones and connected devices, managers can better understand the effectiveness of practical measures such as hand washing and sanitising.
Individuals can get automatic alerts if they are breaking social distancing rules. And critically, dependent on a firm’s policy and privacy laws, if anyone develops Covid-19 symptoms or is tested positive, the system can be used to notify those who have been in close contact so they can self-isolate or get tested.
Data security and privacy are paramount – all data is anonymised and only smartphones with the app installed and that are inside the site geozone are meshed together. As the smartphone leaves the geozone, it is automatically disconnected.
As well as providing a valuable solution to safe operations, the new mesh technology helps to improve site efficiency, productivity and traceability. Ironically, the technology was originally designed for use at major sporting events, music festivals, retail centres and transport hubs. But when the pandemic hit, it quickly became clear that the technology could also play a vital role in helping get businesses get back to work and get sports and entertainment venues back up and running.
Image credit | Wyld Networks