Chuck Sabin, senior director of market development at Bluetooth SIG explains how Bluetooth Technology is enabling a safe return to normal

After months in and out of lockdown, many questions remain about how we can move forward safely. We are all anxious to return to business as usual, but until people are widely vaccinated, ‘Hands. Face. Space’ and other strategies to manage the pandemic are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

On top of business interruption, our scheduled programming – sports, concerts, visits to museums – have been traded in for infrequent trips to the grocery shop and a walk in the local park wearing a mask.

The health of everyone in our society should remain the primary rationale for making reopening decisions. However, the economic impact of closures to or restrictions on businesses and schools is also a driving force behind the need for safe reopening solutions.

The economic instability has caused over 600,000 jobs losses across British hospitality sector, and, around the world, people are more negative about the economy amid COVID-19 than during Great Recession.

Everyone is looking for a middle ground to get the economy moving and keep everyone safe. Companies across the world are turning to Bluetooth technology in the hopes of doing just that – adapting existing infrastructures to offer new solutions that will help us return to our lifestyles pre-pandemic while continuing to take necessary precautions seriously.

Combatting the virus with wireless technology

Organisations rely on customers and staff to comply with COVID-19 safety measures like mask-wearing and sanitisation. Still, they must do their part to help minimise the spread and enable safe reopening and technology can be a cost-effective measure in doing so. As most of the devices we use in our everyday lives are embedded with Bluetooth technology, it is easy to apply it to the existing infrastructure in many public spaces. In other words, wireless solutions would be particularly effective in helping us balance the scale between safety and normalcy.

Developers, facilities managers, property owners, and even government agencies are turning to Bluetooth to implement innovative solutions that help manage the spread, accelerate reopening efforts across the globe. There are several ways how this technology can be leveraged to support safety efforts and help curb the disease spread.

Smart building solutions

Offices, factories, schools, stadiums, and other large venues around the world are looking to Bluetooth smart building applications to power safe return solutions to help them take every reasonable precaution to reopen or continue to operate safely in this new reality.

For staff who come into contact with many people and touch a lot of surfaces, practicing hand washing is a must to minimise infection. Use-based sanitisation solutions help ensure that shared resources and common areas, including hot desks, kitchens and conference rooms, are disinfected in a more timely and efficient manner, keeping individuals healthy while also helping facilities manage the cost of complying with new levels of cleanliness and identify areas of increased risk. Bluetooth enabled hand sanitising stations located in shared office spaces can help monitor and encourage staff usage each time they enter or exit the room.

In addition, Bluetooth-enabled proximity warnings can remind employees to keep social distances and, therefore, reduce the risk of viral transmission. Bluetooth wayfinding applications and visitor-flow monitoring solutions can help guide workers and visitors through buildings by the safest routes.

Safe treatment solutions

Another area where wireless technology can make a significant difference in keeping people safe is health services. In fact, medical practitioners and facilities are embracing Bluetooth medical devices and solutions for diagnosis and treatment to reduce potential exposure and improve the efficiency of patient care. Wireless connections create safer in-facility patient diagnosis and monitoring and improved remote monitoring and in-home care.

A fast-growing number of Bluetooth-powered medical wearable devices including connected blood pressure monitors, continuous glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, and even asthma inhalers are helping administer medication and transmit critical information while practicing the safety measures and social distancing rules. Furthermore, to reduce the risks of home visits, ongoing remote patient monitoring using Bluetooth technology is also helping patients return home and isolate themselves to continue their recovery without compromising the care they receive.

Exposure Notification Systems

Used by many government health agencies, public Exposure Notification Systems (ENS) leverages Bluetooth technology already embedded in smartphones to notify people when they have been in close contact with someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19 or another infectious disease. By sending alerts to people who have come in contact with someone who tested positive, the solution helps ensure that enterprises and individuals can take the appropriate precautions to stay safe.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has recently launched a draft of a specification that enables a variety of wearable device to operate in similar way to app-based solution. This next step will significantly increase the number of individuals whose smartphone usage remains low, including children in primary school and older adults living in care facilities.

We are still a long way away from returning to pre-pandemic normalcy. Though technology is no substitute for testing, social distancing, or wearing personal protective equipment when appropriate, it can alleviate the current challenges and help pave the road to recovery. As we slowly begin to open non-essential shops, restaurants, workplaces, and other public venues, Bluetooth technology can still offer the flexibility necessary to build accessible and scalable solutions for the unknown future.