3 Reasons Why A Nationwide Contact Tracing System Is A Pipedream
At a time when construction companies and businesses across New Zealand are preparing to return to work safely under Level 3 restrictions, a Kiwi technology company at the forefront of contactless ‘proof of presence’ tracing solutions describes chasing a single nationwide solution to Covid-19 contact tracing as a ‘pipedream’ - instead recommending a site-by-site approach to tracing as the key to achieving a coronavirus-free future for New Zealand.
Simon Yock, founder of Forsite Limited, which was established in Auckland in 2016 to provide contact tracing and proof of presence solutions to the property and construction sectors, describes three barriers to putting in place a single affective nationwide solution:
1. Practicality – a single system would require New Zealand’s population to have Bluetooth and geolocation active on a device at all times, running in the background and only draining small amounts of battery. Added are the practicalities of storing immense amounts of data, safely, without overloading existing mobile networks, which Yock describes as ‘a monstrous exercise’.
2. Civil liberties – downloading a Government app would be highly unlikely to get enough take-up to be effective. This approach has failed everywhere except China. A mere 20% take-up in the normally compliant Singapore population shows it would be unlikely to work in New Zealand.
3. Security – the security challenges of protecting massively growing data on one database would be immense, with the database inevitably becoming a concerted focus for hackers.
Instead, Yock says that a business-level solution requiring an automatic, technology-enabled log in and out of sites, as part of Health & Safety requirements, will provide instant and accurate records of individual visits, making it easy to follow the train of transmission if necessary.
Yock says a contactless solution to this challenge already exists, as Forsite has been working in this ‘sweet spot’ to help companies meet Workplace Health & safety regulation changes since 2016, providing automated proof of presence systems for companies and sites all over the world.
Forsite users install an app that talks to a sensor installed at entry/exit points on clients’ sites. “The Forsite app runs in the background, identifying everyone within 10 metres of a sensor. Notification is sent to the Cloud: automatic, real-time proof of presence. Any user arriving at a monitored location is logged when they enter and leave, even if they don’t take any action to check in.”
Yock adds that this solution is ready to be deployed right now. “It is a simple fix that could make a massive difference. We already have 10,000 users in New Zealand, Australia and the UK on our system, and over 2.5 million sqm of property under management worldwide. Before Covid-19 struck, we were on track to increase our volume 40-fold this year to over 100 million square metres, but we are seeing that accelerating as organisations seek to put in place an effective contract tracing and contactless check-in solution”.
Organisations already using Forsite include Precinct Properties, PMG Group, Savills, Mason CBRE, Colliers International, Stride Property, Mason Partners, CEG, Foodstuffs and a number of other companies.
Describing ‘tens of thousands of hours’ spent mastering the system in its early days, Yock says that Forsite has learnt that five things are required for an automated tracing system to work properly:
- The system can’t draw battery off a user’s device: minimal battery consumption
- It must require minimal data from users
- It must make the process easy, fast, foolproof and 100% automatic
- It must be entirely contactless
- It must require as close as possible to zero time consumption for the user.
“For it to work it must ask the person coming onto site for as close to zero as possible: data, time, battery, information that puts them at risk or discomfort.”
However, he does add: “Tracing is the key to a Covid-free future, but it only works if you have complete data. Contact tracing site-by-site puts responsibility onto individual site managers, and they can choose the solution that best suits their individual needs, rather than using a mandated solution that is reliant on one provider or app.
“Not only does this approach avoid giving data wholesale to the government, but it also makes gathering data feasible. It will help sites to return to operation sooner, and keep them safer, while helping to track the spread of any future outbreaks.
“Contact tracing will be part of our new normal for a while to come, particularly as we see second waves of the virus going around the world, and NZ heads into winter. Until there is a vaccine, contact tracing is going to be key.”
For more information, visit Forsite’s Covid-19 web page: https://getforsite.com/covid-19-nz-business