In the US alone, there are over 300,000 Industrial and warehousing organizations, spending North of $360 billion in capital expenditures and $40 billion1 in security services every year. Security is typically handled through complex legacy systems, often lacking integration, and is human intensive. Systems and processes are expensive to setup and maintain, and they have multiple points of failure.
Add COVID-19 and businesses all over the globe, especially those classified as essential such as manufacturing plants and warehouse operators, must rethink how to keep their employees safe. They must adapt their workforces to not only follow health and safety guidelines, but also ‘pandemic-proof’ their business models. In busy warehouse environments where employees often work in close proximity, this will not be such an easy feat.
New technologies such as edge-based facial recognition drive significant improvements to security, health and safety, making facilities safer for employees and better protected, while driving costs down. This article will explain how this is done, through a number of use cases and illustrations.
#1 Perimeter security and access control
Facial recognition can play a pivotal role in transforming overall on-site security. A solution software development kit (SDK) can be added to most existing security camera systems to monitor people’s presence in the facilities or their perimeter. When connected to a database with enrolled people, it can distinctly identify employees, registered visitors or contractors, as well as block listed or unrecognized individuals. In addition to keeping a detailed log, it sends instant alert messages to the relevant people in each case, ensuring action is taken swiftly. This solution provides 100% monitoring, all automated, eliminating the need for security staff to sit at a console and manually watch multiple monitors, and freeing them to quickly handle any alert. Where it is not practical to add the SDK to legacy systems, FaceMe® Security is a ready-to-deploy software solution with similar features. It simply needs to be installed on a workstation and connected to existing or new IP cameras. Adding facial recognition results in better asset safekeeping and facilities protection, while lowering overall costs.
#2 Operations tracking
Monitoring operations and ensuring the smooth execution of complex workflows are among the top priorities of manufacturing and warehousing organizations. Facial recognition can streamline several processes, especially those requiring employee sign-in, and people movement monitoring. Precise clocking in and out to work can be automated by placing cameras at employee entrances. Facial login ensures precise control over machinery and equipment operations. Not only can it keep a log and ensure that only authorized employees are operating the equipment, but it can send alerts in case someone is exceeding the maximum set time, for health and safety reasons. Facial recognition can keep a log of who is accessing restricted areas and send alerts if too much time is spent by someone – e.g., exposing them to dangerous substances or temperatures – or if an unauthorized individual is detected. It can also be used to track access and time spent in the facilities by contractors, visitors or delivery people. These are only a few examples where a flexible facial recognition solution can contribute to a smoother operation, at a lower cost, while reducing dependence on human monitoring and interventions.
#3 Mask detection in access control during the pandemic
COVID-19 will be here and affect us well into 2021. And organizations need to be prepared for future pandemics. Studies have found that face masks are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus – serving as an integral tool to keep employees, and anyone they come into contact with, safe. However, they can only keep their wearers and others safe if worn properly. A face mask that does not cover a person’s nose and mouth fully does not offer any protection, and too often individuals are tempted to pull masks down temporarily.
Fortunately, facial recognition solutions can immediately identify if an employee is wearing a mask and if they are wearing it properly. Should an employee attempt to enter the facility without a mask placed over their mouth and nose, the technology can prevent access until they make the necessary adjustment or can notify appropriate personnel. In turn, if an employee takes off their mask, or shifts it out of place while on the floor, the technology can identify this in real time for proper action to be taken.
#4 Temperature checks
One of the many symptoms of the COVID-19 virus is a high fever. And as a way to stymie the spread of the virus, measuring people’s temperature before they enter restricted areas – whether public or private – has become an increasingly accepted practice.
While some warehouse operators might look to perform manual temperature scans on each employee as they seek to enter the workplace, this process takes up more time and resources than needed. Some of the latest facial recognition technologies can be equipped with thermal screening capabilities to make this process very efficient, and completely hands-free. These technologies can inform the individual, as well as their manager, if they are a health risk to themselves and others.
When this type of technology is present at warehouse entry points, operators can be sure that their employees are only reporting to work if they are healthy and can confidently carry out job duties, while also preventing any harm to others on the floor.
#5 Contactless authentication, even when wearing a mask
Throughout the workday, factory and warehouse employees perform authentication using devices that typically require physical interaction. Clocking in or out, unlocking doors and signing-on to shared computers, devices or machinery are all activities where using touch-pads, cards or keys can put employees at risk of contracting the disease. While there are a number of facial recognition technologies that can enable contactless identification in some or all these cases, most of them are ineffective when someone’s face is covered by a mask. Fortunately, some of the latest innovations from industry leaders can perform highly accurate facial recognition even when people are wearing masks, enabling secure, contactless authentication while ensuring full COVID-19 prevention compliance.
While the best is still to come, there are pilot projects in industrial facilities and warehouses around the world, and we are starting to see organizations move from proofs or concept to wide deployments. The lack of edge-based AI hardware and high costs were significant barriers to adoption even a couple of years ago, but we are currently seeing a fast expanding offering of powerful and affordable options. Even when facial recognition is deployed on edge-based devices, most use cases require connection to remote databases; 5G will open the door to integrating facial recognition into remote facilities as well as moving equipment and off-site activities.
Ensuring safe supply chains: communication is key
Beyond the technology and its benefits, factory and warehouse operators must communicate the changes to processes and workflows that they intend to make, especially when it comes to a technology like facial recognition, which when implemented poorly, can have professional and social consequences. However, when applied ethically and constructively, it can bring many benefits to bolstering effectiveness of the supply chain and safety of workers during this challenging time and beyond.
For a full overview of facial recognition, how it works and how it can be deployed, read Edge-based Facial Recognition – The Ultimate Guide.