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Although there were plenty of warnings, Covid-19 still came as a shock - the kind that changes history. Economic policies will change, culture will change and businesses have to change too. The first challenge for everyone is to quash the current epidemic, but the second is to embrace permanent change.

Track and Trace

The first step in controlling an infectious disease is detection, but the government’s phone tracking proposals only scratch the surface of what is possible and what is needed.

Mass tracking is only needed when earlier opportunities to detect and contain outbreaks have failed. Thermal cameras deployed at ports, airports and railway stations could detect signs of fever, corroborate information with other cameras using the IoT, and provide a much faster alert than the one that eventually came from China about Covid-19.

Thermal cameras, and other health checking devices, can also be deployed in particular buildings and business premises. Employers can provide them to monitor the health of their staff and visitors. Most will welcome the opportunity, and appreciate the protection the company is providing. Eventually we think such equipment will be commonplace, and even in normal times it will help to reduce workforce sick leave.

Indiscriminate phone tracking is a panic reaction. Mobile phones can’t tell you if their owner is harbouring a virus, or whether the virus passed to any of the hundreds of people they may have encountered during its incubation period. The best IoT solution is prevention - and that’s far better than the cure.


The public knows our healthcare workers are doing a great job in a high-risk environment. Despite shortages, capacity wasn’t overrun and emergency hospitals have remained empty. However, behind the headlines there is a darker picture - the healthcare sector was the main vector by which the virus spread. The toll on nursing home residents and staff is out of all proportion to the toll in society at large. Without a range of new protections, hospitals and care homes could become the problem instead of the solution.

In the US, the FCC quickly made changes to its Rural Health Care program to enable Medicare to provide remote consultations. In the UK, doctors have traditionally resisted innovations such as remote consultations and expert diagnostic systems for fear it will erode their status and budgets. In times of epidemic, the dangers of contagion and cross-contagion between staff and patients outweigh those concerns. The NHS, and other healthcare providers, should quickly scale up their ability to diagnose and monitor patients remotely.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) using IoT connected sensors and instruments can improve greatly on a monthly doctor’s appointment. Health conditions can be monitored continually, and medication adjusted immediately changes are detected. Smart medical sensors are already becoming more common, but in times of epidemic, they are more important than ever, freeing up beds and staff, reducing costs, and accelerating treatment delivery. In the event of a problem, they can automatically summon a doctor or ambulance.

Remote working

The majority of the world’s businesses have made adjustments to allow home-working during the lockdown. Having discovered the enormous savings (rent, electricity, travel) many will shift permanently toward it. Cloud software and Zoom conferencing are enough for some, but there are IoT solutions for all kinds of remote and mobile equipment too.

Essentially, any equipment used in the course of an activity can be engineered to provide real-time information back to the cloud, where it can be analysed, monitored, adjusted or automated - either by senior personnel or by artificial intelligence. This means many operations, or entire factories, can be automated and safely monitored from afar.

Air quality

A great weakness of modern buildings is their air conditioning systems. Green legislation and energy prices encourage us to rely on HVAC systems that circulate and recirculate air instead of expelling it. While it makes economic sense, it isn’t very reassuring in an epidemic. While most have filters, few are good enough to remove or destroy viruses.

In the war against Covid-19, not to mention influenza and “sick building syndrome”, a huge contribution can be made by smarter HVAC installations, especially in supermarkets and office blocks. Rather than making shoppers queue for an hour, the air quality inside a building might be a better guide as to how many people to admit or turn away.

A fully IoT connected HVAC system can drastically improve the safety of the air inside our buildings. Sensors can detect CO2 levels, viral loads, spores and other micro-organisms, adjusting air-flow and other conditions accordingly. At the same time, they can ensure your system delivers the best possible value-for-money, switching off unnecessary functions when they aren’t actually needed.

In these and a host of other ways, the IoT can help your business back to work, while also protecting your workers and margins from a range of other threats - both new and old.

Covid-19 has presented businesses with challenges they have never had to face before. With restrictions dragging on and future lockdowns probable, everyone should be earnestly seeking ways to operate in lockdown conditions, reassure customers they can deliver safe products, and provide safe environments for their workers. Many will soon discover their markets have changed too. Forever. There has never been a better time to discover how revolutionary technologies can help. 

In essence, the Internet-of-Things can connect virtually anything - from air filters to aeroplanes, from cows to combine harvesters, from printers to petrol tankers - so they can be monitored or operated from anywhere. Improved sensors, new data resources, upgraded software and tumbling costs constantly extend the applications to which it can be put. 

Return to work solutions 

The Internet-of-Things is a technology so vast in potential that few businesses appreciate the myriad things it can do. Getting your workers back to work and keeping your customers safe is just scratching the surface, but a very good place to start. You can quickly equip your offices, workshops, warehouses and retail spaces with a range of Covid-19 monitoring and risk minimisation tools using IoT enabled devices. 

Thermal cameras 

Like those already being deployed in airports, thermal cameras can look for signs of illness in your staff or visitors. They are particularly suitable for deployment at controlled entrances, but employees are also grateful for the opportunity to self-test and monitor their own health indicators on a daily basis. Temporary mobile cameras can also be set up at store entrances, allowing staff to warn arrivals if they show signs of a fever.

 Smart cameras 

Your existing CCTV systems, indoor or out, can be linked to smart image processing software and adapted to identify any feature of interest - such as social distancing. They can also be used to track anyone who has been put at risk. Medical facilities can use a CCTV system to monitor the safety of visitors and patients or ensure that employees abide by safe hygiene practices, including the proper use of PPE. For example, our cameras can quickly learn to recognise not only if proper face masks and PPE are being worn, but even if they are being worn correctly. 

Automating human monitoring eliminates many privacy concerns. As no images actually need to be stored, there are no GDPR issues for anyone to worry about. 

Proximity detectors 

A simple social distancing solution can be implemented by issuing every employee or visitor with a wearable device. When two devices come too close, they issue an unobtrusive but audible vibration. IoT connection allows you to go further, identifying workflow bottlenecks and geographical locations that pose social distancing hazards. Even in the absence of infectious hazards, identifying bottlenecks and congestion in your premises is useful information. 

Air quality 

With a few upgrades, most aircon systems can become an excellent defence against the airborne transmission of bacteria, spores and viruses. This enables you to provide strong reassurance to your staff, to customers and to statutory health and safety authorities. A wide variety of air monitoring and filtration units can be installed, guaranteeing you protection against a whole range of old and new health hazards. With IoT feedback, you can quickly identify any high-risk areas and focus solutions on them if necessary. Smart systems can also make that call for you, scaling up protection when it is needed, and reducing your running costs when it isn't. 

Net4 air quality monitoring and filtration solutions are capable of removing almost all bacteria, viruses and particulates (that often carry them) from your indoor environment. The system can also alert you as to the air quality conditions inside the building in real-time, and provide you with data to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your entire HVAC system. 

Effective interventions, rapid results 

Our rapid back to work solutions are often very simple, but can also be highly sophisticated and effective. In either case, you may need some help to spot your many IoT opportunities. Those opportunities are often huge in scope and can involve multiple contractors delivering a wide range of specialist skills and innovative products. That’s where Net4 comes in. We use our proven partner network to ensure that every one of our customers gets the bespoke solution they need, and we make sure it is up and running as quickly as possible. 

Our back to work solutions don’t require you to down tools while they’re implemented, and our specialised experience will help you future-proof your business. Getting back to work is just the start.