Safely Reimagining Warehouses with Facial Recognition

By: Dr. Jau Huang, Chairman and CEO of CyberLink

As warnings of a second COVID-19 outbreak loom, businesses all over the globe, especially those that are classified as essential such as manufacturing plants and warehouse operators, are rethinking how they can keep employees safe. They must adapt their workforces to not only follow health and safety guidelines to prevent the spread, 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. However, certain facial recognition technologies can aid this process. Let’s examine a few examples.

Mask detection in access control
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, there are facial recognition solutions available that 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 on properly, 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.

Scanning and temperature checks
One of the many symptoms of the COVID-19 virus is a high fever, which is not the most obvious thing to detect with the naked eye alone. 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.

Thermal scanning used to detect high fever can prevent employees with non-visible symptoms from infecting others.
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. Facial recognition technology, when equipped with thermal screening capabilities, can make this process much more efficient, and completely hands-free.

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. Even if an employee’s temperature isn’t quite at the dangerous fever level, but is inching towards a risky degree, technology like this is able to catch a rising body temperature and alert the individual, as well as their manager, if they are a health risk to themselves and others.

Contactless authentication, even when wearing a mask
Throughout the workday, 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 now perform highly accurate facial recognition even when people are wearing masks, enabling secure, contactless authentication while ensuring full COVID-19 prevention compliance.

Social distancing compliance and spatial capacity
One of the most challenging aspects for those returning to work in manufacturing is keeping socially distanced while on the job, as they don’t have the luxury to do this job remotely. Especially considering these workers are in a closed-door environment, maintaining a 6-foot distance between others, which has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will be paramount to keeping everyone as safe as possible. Facial recognition technology could come into aid here to monitor how close employees get to each other when passing by, and alert employees if they should separate farther out from each other.

Using a technology like this must be adopted with care, as the intent should not be to police or surveil employees, but rather, to provide real-time insight and assistance for workers as they pass through highly-trafficked areas such as hallways, break rooms, and entrances and exits. Trends in where staff tend to congregate, and possible congestion areas, could help operators understand any floor changes that need to be made to make warehouse pathways more spacious.

Ensuring safe supply chains: communication is key
Above all, 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.

Dr. Jau Huang is the Chairman and CEO of CyberLink, maker of FaceMe facial recognition engine. Dr. Huang founded CyberLink Corp. in 1996, with a focus on developing world-class digital video and Internet technologies. His vision and passion has propelled Cyberlink to grow from a small company to an award-winning global brand. As Chairman and CEO, he leads a dynamic, award-winning team that keeps on delivering some of the industry’s most innovative products.