Windsor firm helps create temperature-sensing device to tackle COVID-19
Monday, June 15, 2020
The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell
Monitoring who is healthy is going to be critical in Ontario’s re-opening from the COVID-19 pandemic, and a temperature sensing system developed with local input is helping provide a solution for large workplaces and public gatherings.
The software developed in partnership between tech firms Eaigle of Markham and Windsor’s DataRealm was unveiled nine weeks ago and is already in use by several major corporations in the retail, meatpacking and manufacturing sectors.
The provincial and federal governments also plan on using the software for crowd monitoring at Canada Day festivities.
“Making employers, staff and customers comfortable that they’re safe at work is the number one priority,” said Eaigle co-founder and CEO Amir Hoss.
“There’s a measure of people reluctant to come back to work because they’re not wanting to take the risk. It’ll also help in tracking where and how fast the virus spreads.”
Using a basic security-type camera, the addition of the software built on an artificial intelligence platform can track and measure the temperatures of anyone passing through the camera’s large view range, saving time and manpower.
In an era when social distancing wasn’t required, the device could monitor a 1,000 people at a time with accuracy within half a degree Celsius. The sophisticated technology can even account for someone holding a coffee in their hand, thus avoiding a false reading.
“If you think of the auto industry, where you have 1,500 people on a shift at a time, how long does it take if each one has to stop for 15 to 60 seconds for a thermal scanning,” said Hoss, who worked at FCA Canada for three years as well as for the local engineering firm now known as Tandem Engineering.
“This software allows crowds of people to be screened without disrupting the flow of people into the facility and the camera doesn’t need to be manned. It flags a central computer onsite with anyone spotted with an elevated temperature.”
The software can be added to existing cameras or new ones can be supplied. They can either be wall-mounted cameras or used on a portable tripod.
Hoss said his company was already using the artificial intelligence equipment to help businesses, the entertainment industry, municipalities and government monitor traffic flow, capacity control, the behaviour of crowds, what store aisles consumers frequented most and whether shoppers were reacting to promotions.
When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted Hoss realized the company’s expertise could be applied to aid the re-opening of the province.
“Eaigle had the platform and we helped out with our experience in the manufacturing domain,” said DataRealm founder/president Dave Fortin.
“Our role is we added features and important requirements for the automotive sector in software requirements, specifications and customer needs. It helps make it more marketable in the field.”
Fortin said one of the biggest challenges in adapting the software for manufacturing needs was around privacy concerns.
Because the data being collected is in real time, never leaves the site and isn’t stored in the cloud, however, the privacy concerns for both companies and employees have been addressed.
The software is capable of facial recognition, but that function can be disabled without affecting the system’s efficiency.
Fortin said he’s currently in discussions with automakers, the City of Windsor, Essex County and University of Windsor about using the system locally.
“We’re trying to get a pilot going with FCA at their headquarters or at Windsor Assembly,” Fortin said. “We’re in parallel discussions with Ford about using it at the Windsor engine plants.
“There’s talks with the greenhouses about using it as well.”
Hoss said one of the attractions of the system is that it has multiple uses beyond COVID-19.
It can measure the efficiency of movement on a production line, energy usage, monitor equipment and the number of people in a facility and detect thermal hot spots helping identify maintenance needs.
“We’re always adding supplemental technology to improve the system and make its uses more flexible,” Hoss said.