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AI-Powered Kiosks Help Spot COVID-19 in Pennsylvania

The new technology, which is being deployed by some businesses, can be programmed to provide alerts for anyone with temperatures over the normal range as well as to remind those not wearing a mask to put one on.

by Russ O Reilly, The Tribune-Democrat / August 17, 2020

(TNS) — Businesses are installing new thermal imaging kiosks to check employees and visitors for high temperatures and even face coverings.

Watkins Security, LLC, a Johnstown-based company that specializes in networks and security systems, introduced the technology in response to interest from the local business community that is continuing efforts to protect people from COVID-19.

Watkins Security, LLC, President Christopher Watkins said it’s a form of artificial intelligence or deep learning technology.

“There is a paradigm brewing. The market is heading to these types of systems – fast response, automatic. Every little second matters,” he said. “It is really perfect technology for our current COVID-19 situation. The temperature-scanning kiosk uses advanced facial recognition and provides an accurate temperature within about one second.”

Those using the scanner do not have to touch any buttons. They stop within three feet of the screen for one second and their temperature is provided.

The technology can also be programmed to provide alerts for anyone with temperatures over the normal range as well as to remind those not wearing a mask to please put one on.

Watkins said units cost $3,000 and are supplied from a Florida-based vendor.

Area businesses are only beginning to purchase and install them. The technology has been implemented in six Head Start early childhood programs across the county. The centers are set to open Monday.

Head Start is provided through the Community Action Partnership of Cambria County, which is led by Executive Director Jeff Vaughn, who said the kiosks were purchased with CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act funding. Vaughn said he researched vendors to ensure there were no parts manufactured in China – which would disqualify the devices from being bought with funding supplied to businesses from the CARES Act.

The kiosk contains a thermal imaging camera that provides an outline of a person’s head and provides a temperature reading.

“If their temperature is over 100.4 degrees, then it will flag red. It can also identify whether a person is wearing a mask,” Vaughn said. “It will send a text or email to our Head Start health and safety supervisor.”

“I think you will start to see them in different places,” he said. “It looks like a large cellphone on a pole. It recognizes your face and displays your temperature.”

The kiosk’s software can also be enabled for facial recognition, which could be utilized in high-security businesses, Watkins said.

Cambria Regional Chamber of Commerce President Amy Bradley foresees many companies using the kiosks.

“A lot of companies are trying to keep employees and customers safe,” Bradley said. “And this technology is so simple. It works with companies’ existing employee badge systems and door entry systems.

©2020 The Tribune-Democrat, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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