The COVID-safe technology making events safer

Three tech developments making a positive impact on business events.

If you cast your mind back to 12 months ago when futurists were predicting the top tech trends to watch, thermal imaging, social distancing wearables or sanitising gadgets certainly weren’t on the agenda.

But fast forward to today where hygiene and health are an organiser’s top priority, they are just a handful of the technology innovations to surface in 2020.

Here, we take a deep dive into some of the technology you can expect to see as events return to the fore in a post-COVID world.

Thermal imaging

Thermal imaging is one form of COVID-safe technology that has surfaced in recent months. Designed to take delegates temperatures as they enter a venue, thermal imaging can identify people with high temperatures in a non-invasive way, reducing the risk of COVID-19 within an event.

Amid the pandemic, audio visual supplier Congress Rental has begun supplying thermal imaging technology for the events sector. Set up at the entrance of a venue, the scanners can capture up to 30 people’s temperature per second as they pass through in single file, with an accuracy of 0.3 degrees celsius.

covid-safe technology
Congress Rental’s thermal imaging tech

Congress Rental managing director Jeremy Ducklin says the key to its accuracy is a fixed temperature module, called a black body, that sits behind every camera frame.

“As the person walks past, the black body is always in the background making a comparison between the black body temperature and the body temperature of the person.”

Attendees that are found to have a high temperature can be easily identified and provided with further testing or denied entry to the event. Already, the product has been deployed at a handful of events, including a large consumer exhibition in New Zealand.

As the technology evolves, Ducklin says it will be particularly useful for moving high volumes of people in and out of venues and stadiums.

While he doesn’t expect thermal imaging to become mandatory for events, Ducklin says it will become an optional added level of security for planners.

“There’s all these different levels and layers of security that you can add on,”he says.

“The more layers your event has, the more comfortable people will feel and the more likely they are to come back to events.”

UV-C disinfection

UV-C light, a non-chemical disinfectant that kills bacteria, is emerging as a sanitising solution for hotels, convention centres and other public spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit, Australian-based UV-C specialist GERMii re-engineered its equipment to offer handheld and chamber devices to treat a range of spaces. Founder Shan Patterson says the technology is becoming more popular as companies realise the growing need to protect staff and attendees.

“We particularly recognise, with extensive events backgrounds ourselves, that just one outbreak for an event centre can cause serious impact and we want to be able to help mitigate that risk,” he says.

Melbourne-based lighting design company Brightgreen offers a range of UV-C ceiling lights designed to kill viruses in offices and hospitality venues during overnight disinfection cycles.

While UV-C exposure can cause damage to humans, Brightgreen CEO David O’Driscoll says his company has mitigated the risk by linking the lights to presence monitors and making the system fully automated.

The lights can also be used in elevators to destroy airborne pathogens or installed in escalator handrails to sanitise on each rotation.

“It’s an ongoing product evolution as we step up our COVID response,” says O’Driscoll. “We want to contribute to the community and we’re developing new products as the situation calls for them.”

Social distancing wearables

Wearable technology, while not a new concept, is emerging in an event landscape to assist delegates maintain appropriate social distancing at events. Event supplier Harry the Hirer recently trialled its new social distancing e-badges at the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC), a first for the region and Australia.

On arrival, delegates were given a lanyard or wristband that was programmed to alert them when they were within 1.5 metres of another person, either with a gentle vibration, flashing light or subtle tone.

covid-safe technology
National Convention Centre Canberra trialling the Smart Badge

Harry the Hirer state manager for NSW Paul Elliott says the e-badges, now known as the Smart Badge, take existing technology and apply them in a new, unique way for the event industry.

“The intention was to provide an initiative that can help the industry get back to work,”he says.

“It’s about playing our role in this pandemic and working with our clients to do what we can so that together we can get back to business.”

covid-safe technology
Harry the Hirer’s initial trials of the Smart Badge

The trial received a positive review from NCCC general manager Stephen Wood, who says the tech provides a non- invasive reminder for delegates to keep their distance.

“It’s taking people a little bit of time, particularly in a meeting environment, to get used to what one and a half metres means,” he says.

The wearables can also be programmed to a particular length of time, for example only alerting the wearer after they’ve been in close proximity to another delegate after 10 minutes.

“It’s about controlling your longer exposure to people and it allows delegates to far more easily manage their own experience,” says Wood.

Following the trial, Harry the Hirer further developed the technology to include contact tracing abilities. Beyond COVID-19, the badges have future use in geo-mapping to gather data on where and how delegates move throughout a venue.

Elliott says while the devices were initially specific to business events, they have potential use for large-scale public events such as the Grand Prix or Melbourne Cup.

“We’re not trying to overcomplicate it, we’re looking for accuracy, efficiency and application of a device that’s universal,” he says.

GO-GO GADGET!

Expect to see these gadgets and tech as events return.

Hand sanitiser units

No event is COVID-safe without a surplus of hand sanitiser for delegates to use. Expect to see branded units placed at entries and exits, as well as high-touch areas like cafés.

Door opening gadgets

Many doors in large event venues are automated but for those that aren’t, there’s a new gadget in town. Small enough to fit on a lanyard, plastic or metal door openers may become the norm for event-goers.

PPE vending machines

Forgot your mask or hand sanny? Melbourne company Techbox Australia has adapted its vending machines at a number of Aussie convention centres to dispense COVID-safe supplies.


This article originally appeared in the Spring issue of Spice Magazine.
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