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AI-Based Location Positioning System for Private Contact Tracing

The artificial intelligence location positioning system runs off a Bluetooth mesh network that ensures privacy, and automatically locates positions of students, employees or guests, offering direct and indirect contact tracing.

by Jim McKay / June 12, 2020

An AI(artificial intelligence)-based location positioning system that was being piloted in schools for emergency situations is now a viable option for businesses, schools and other entities for contact tracing and emergency communication.

The technology works via a mesh network that is set up in a building or in classrooms, and employees or students can be tracked by fobs, such as the badges that employees and students often have now. The students or employees enter the geo-fencing zone and both direct and indirect tracing can be done if an outbreak of coronavirus needs to be tracked.

In  a large building, say with 2,000 employees, the employees is located when they enter the building and, if need be, their whereabouts tracked going back days to see with whom they made contact (direct tracing) and which rooms they were in that may have been contaminated by someone else (indirect tracing).

Only certain personnel, such as an HR person or a school superintendent, would have access to the data.

Volan Technology was started less than two years ago by Michael Bettua and a partner, who were looking at hotel security and technology surrounding a panic button to address violence in the workplace and schools.

“We’d been testing the existing tools out there and they all depend on the phone or a Wi-Fi network to report location and communicate, and that’s a no-go for us because of the privacy issues,” Bettua said. “We took a deep dive in the market and realized we could do something better using Bluetooth mesh technology.”

Bettua began pilots of the technology last August and September at a couple of schools, but the coronavirus closed those down. It was then that he realized they were already close to a contact tracing solution.

“We wanted to see if we could automate contact tracing,” saidBettua. “The states are totally overwhelmed with trying to do contact tracing.” He said there should be about 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people and states have about 1.5, right now. “We can’t rely on the states to do contact tracing across the nation,” he said. “We’ve got to put the power in the hands of the people who are running the buildings and are responsible for safety.”

So schools and businesses can take the matter into their own hands to protect their students and employees and assure them it’s safe to go to work and school. “There’s been a real sense of urgency from schools to find things to help make it easier for them to open safely,” Bettua said. “But now we’re getting a bunch of inbound inquiries from corporations that have 2,000 or 3,000 people and are trying to implement new technology to make it safe again and give the workers confidence.”

Employees or students would where the fobs on a lanyard or belt loop. When they arrive on campus or to work, the geo-fencing technology would log that they are onsite and then log their positions as they move about the property. “That would happen on a daily basis with no intervention,” Bettua said.
He said companies could opt for temperature testing but many don’t want to spend the $20,000 it requires. For contact tracing, the charge is $5 per student per month plus a one-time fee of $20 per wall sensor and a monthly charge for service. It’s a bit more for corporations.

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