As organizations and public buildings begin to come back to life after months of shut-downs, managers are facing new logistical and public safety challenges. From social distancing to daily health checks, and from traffic control to reducing physical touchpoints, running a facility in a post-COVID world means a lot more moving pieces than pre-pandemic and looks to be that way for the foreseeable future. Luckily, technology companies have been hard at work to develop solutions to help support these precautions and ensure a safer return to work, especially in the digital signage and wayfinding, communications, and hardware sectors.
To continue prioritizing productivity and seamless operations, while adhering to CDC regulations for social distancing and public health, it’s critical to identify key technologies that overcome new challenges of post-pandemic operations.
For venues, software applications for digital signage and wayfinding technology is one example of technology that can help mitigate the risks of in-person operations and keep organizations running smoothly in the face of an uncertain future.
Starting at the Entrance
Safe navigation for venues across all industries – from healthcare to education and from hospitality to sporting – begins at the entrance. When venues begin by installing digital signage and kiosk technologies at the entrances of their facility, such as access control, interactive wayfinding and information, and temperature checks via thermal scanning, signage systems can be leveraged to greatly improve and manage the flow of traffic inward, maintaining safety and adhering to screening and social distancing guidelines while also prompting routes for visitors to best reach their destinations.
One of the most popular methods of traffic control at the entrance of a facility is through touch-free kiosks, which can be positioned at doorways to serve as a virtual receptionist and the first line of defense against viral spread. Depending on the venue’s need, kiosks can be customized with features such as touch-free navigation, facial and mask recognition, multi-user recognition, informative displays for communicating guidelines, or accessibility to maps for one-way navigation. To reduce touchpoints, many kiosks can be equipped with voice control prompts and hands-free video calling to allow for instant communication and directions.
An increasingly popular technology available for entryway kiosks are thermal scanners, which add an extra level of physical security to venues by allowing or denying entry based on body temperature. At entry, providing a temperature screening before a building visitor has entered traffic-heavy parts of the venue can reduce the risk to other visitors and help notify staff when there is risk of viral spread in the facility. With this feature, venues can also leverage instant video calling options to connect a receptionist or security officer to voice chat with an individual remotely, providing next steps and instructions and making the screening process seamless, as well as safe, by eliminating the need for face-to-face interaction.
Mobile technology is another application. Many entryway kiosks can provide an experience that carries into individual mobile devices for a seamless, accessible and contactless way of navigating the premises. Via unique QR code scans that populate wayfinding directions and information on web browsers, users can leverage the technology on their smartphone or tablet as they move about venues to ensure continued adhesion to guidelines and a more accessible way to understand safety, reduce touchpoints within a venue, and streamline navigation and contract tracing to a single device.
Past the Front Door
Of course, COVID-19 and other viruses do not always stop at the front desk -- and neither do the signage options for controlling viral spread within venues in the return to the new normal. Additional options for interactive wayfinding can help manage guest building capacity and control traffic pathways and flow around venues, ensuring piece of mind within the facility and allowing ample space and direction for social distancing. Wayfinding technology can communicate pre-planned routes for guests to follow to avoid wandering and unnecessary interactions.
With the aforementioned mobile technology, venue guests can access these routes directly on their smart device with a QR code scan, while managers can leverage the mobile technology to activate live push notifications with updates, emergency information and even promotions post-COVID.
Another method of controlling traffic and mitigating the risk of viral spread in post-COVID venues is the practice of hot-desking and room scheduling, supported by content management software. Hot-desking and scheduling systems combine sensor technology and signage to reserve spaces, rooms and even seats at a granular level to offer a way of tracking and maintaining appropriate social distance, while also marking which areas are occupied and will need to be sanitized before a new guest can enter that space. This integrated solution can assist facility managers in understanding how their spaces are being used, how traffic might need to be adjusted, and how to improve navigation and spatial layouts for optimal public safety.
Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) is an upgrade for wayfinding applications to provide insight on patterns, risks and more about how spaces are being used, effectively supporting informed decision-making. Venue managers can leverage usage data gleaned from sensors, hotdesking, voice commands, secure mobile tracking, and more to auto-generate the best schedules and shortest paths to ease of accessibility, with health at forefront of the analysis.
Clear Communication is Key
In the post-COVID venue, technology integrations that enhance communication are more vital than ever. Especially as policies globally continue to adapt and the needs of individual facilities shift, it is critical to emphasize public health guidelines, screening policies and risk management for patrons and employees alike. With software, digital signage and wayfinding technologies can be a platform for conveying these messages, with options for remote management and editing, touch-free interaction, and instant notifications.
Front desk kiosks and wayfinding signage throughout a facility, as well as mobile solutions, can be the first step to communicating policies and directions to facility visitors, but the solutions are not limited to dedicated signage. Content management software can also integrate desktop and mobile notification systems into both employee workstations and visitor devices to offer instant communication for urgent changes, allowing for quick changes to be communicated in a timely manner and eliminating delay. This reminder system can help to ensure navigation and guidelines are enforced throughout the entirety of a stay at a venue, but also inform users when there is a risk of exposure or need to adjust navigation. And, as patrons use their mobile device to navigate facilities, their information, directions and reminders are all available for reference in one central location to streamline the experience.
While content technologies are critical for public safety during the COVID-era, they also offer technological and experiential advancements for venues with immersive, visual infotainment solutions. Implementing these solutions can offer a dynamic, real-time interactive experience for any passer-by that delivers a sustainable competitive advantage to guests. Delivered via kiosks, video walls, and mobile communication, content management software take both safety and satisfaction to the next level.
COVID-19 has introduced many logistical challenges for venues across all industries, but one thing remains true: The transformation of the office is happening, and adaption is critical to keeping both public safety and business continuity at the forefront of businesses. By implementing new technologies into your facility, the return to work can be streamlined and support business continuity, regardless of current or future circumstances.
This article originally ran in Security, a twice-monthly security-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security Magazine. Subscribe here.