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Innovative Companies Tackle Life in Pandemic Times

In the race to innovate our way out of a global pandemic, things like telemedicine and a coronavirus vaccine usually grab the headlines, but there is also a need for new means of making routine encounters safer.

(TNS) — In the race to innovate our way out of a global pandemic, things like telemedicine and a coronavirus vaccine usually grab the headlines.

Among the innovations coming out from Lehigh Valley companies, meanwhile, are ways to make routine encounters safer.

This past week, the City of Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. and the Allentown Economic Development Corp. all highlighted some of these local achievements.

In Bethlehem, Mayor Bob Donchez announced Wednesday the city’s health bureau is partnering with Bethlehem-based technology company UBMe on a way to check people in virtually at upcoming vaccination clinics.

The health bureau plans to use an app developed by UBMe to get them vaccinated -- think influenza, for now -- while incorporating necessary social distancing into the clinics.

“The client will remain in their vehicle until they are ready to be seen by health bureau staff. The technology will also allow users to communicate with staff from inside their own vehicle,” the city said in a news release.

This partnership represents a return on an investment of over $45,000 to UBMe from the Bethlehem Community and Economic Development Department through the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone.

“This is a great example of our entrepreneurs pivoting to meet the demands of the community,” Donchez says in the release. “Sometimes the return on investment in these companies can come years down the road, but in this case, it has happened immediately.”

UBMe is based in the Pi: Partnership for Innovation business incubator run by the Bethlehem Economic Development Corp. at 520 Evans St. on the city’s Southside. Its Curbside Communication app is also being used by businesses to communicate with patrons from the safety of their cars.

Wilson Borough-based Pulse Innovations on Wednesday was the focus of an LVEDC profile about its new Thermographic Monitoring System that uses high-end cameras and software to scan people and detect fevers from up to 10 feet away as they enter a building or space.

“This is an added layer of protection that will give people a better sense of security when out in the Lehigh Valley,” said Gabriel Jimenez, director of product development with the software integrator company based at 1991 Northampton St.

This non-invasive, no-contact system provides fast, accurate mass screening for elevated temperatures for up to 20 people simultaneously, according to the LVEDC. It displays the temperatures on a screen and gives an alert if signs of a fever are detected, and keeps a running tally of total normal and alerted subjects.

The product is designed to help protect employees and visitors during the COVID-19 crisis, and also has potential uses beyond the pandemic, Jimenez told the LVEDC: Its facial recognition capabilities could be useful as a time-clock solution, or could be used as a means of providing specific people access to secure rooms.

“Future updates will all be software based, allowing hardware to remain the same,” Jimenez said. “Owners will just need to subscribe to apply the updates.”

In Allentown, the AEDC in an email newsletter on Thursday spotlighted a new invention getting attention from Polymer Contours, based in the development corporation’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center at 905 Harrison St.

Aimed at property managers who want to provide their tenants or guests with a touch-less way to trigger an elevator button, PushSafe is a small plastic pin designed for use in apartment complexes, office buildings, hotels and hospitals.

Users twist off a single-use pin from the PushSafe plate, use it to depress the button for the floor they want to go to, then discard it in the recycle bin just below the plate.

It’s sanitary and hygienic because it prevents users from touching the elevator button panels, and because the pins are made of a medical grade polymer with an antimicrobial additive, the AEDC says. The pins are recyclable in most municipal recycling systems under the No. 7 “Other” category of plastics.

“Since touching infected surfaces is a possible way to transmit COVID-19, people are doing their best to avoid commonly touched public surfaces,” Polymer Contours owner Tyson Daniels said, noting the idea came together in about a half-hour with his engineer Lucas Taylor.

Polymer Contours hooked up with a Philadelphia branding agency on gauging interest then immediately began taking pre-orders and ordered two injection molds needed to produce the three components of PushSafe. They arrived in June, and the company has already heard from Amazon about featuring PushSafe on its Prime homepage.

Also locally, the state-funded Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania based in Bethlehem in May highlighted businesses working to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 illness. And Bethlehem-based OraSure Technologies is developing oral fluid-based COVID-19 antibody tests.

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