Returning to commercial spaces safely

It might seem hard to believe, but we are now entering the final quarter of the year.  2021 has been notably different to previous years, very much full of ups and downs.  However, the last few months have seen many of us returning to something approaching “normality”.  Whether it has been returning to the office, heading off on holiday or getting back into retail environments, most of us are starting to “get out there” a bit more.  A key part in this return to a more “usual” way of life is feeling safe and secure in our environments.  Vaccination roll out has had a huge impact, but, undoubtedly, we all want to know that we are as well protected as possible.  Those in charge of commercial spaces are doing all they can to ensure this transition is smooth, keeping the population safe and reducing the spread of the virus.  But how, exactly, is this being managed? At Arkessa, we like to keep our fingers on the pulse of the latest connected technologies, many of which are supporting the commercial sector.  These are a few of our favourite examples of technologies employed across the globe, supporting a post Covid-19 world.

Shopping centres and Malls

Covid-19 has, without doubt, changed the way we shop.  Whilst we are returning to physical retail environments,  we are not doing so in droves.  The pandemic saw an uptake in technologies of which, previously adoption had been slow.  AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are great examples and have proven well suited to the shopping experience.  During lockdowns, this type of tech allowed us to shop with far more ease, without leaving home and it looks likely that they will become the norm, not necessarily removing the need for physical shops, but changing the way we shop in them, and actually improving customer experience.  One way individuals can reduce their exposure to the virus is by spending less time in a location.  If a customer already has a good idea of what they want to purchase before visiting the shop, they will likely spend less time there.  A perfect example can be found in the use of AR technology in apps, allowing the customer to view an item in their home surroundings. This works particularly well in the case of furniture, as IKEA have shown with their app, IKEA Place which allows users to scan their room or an empty floor.  The app then offers suggestions for which furniture would best suit the room and space.  There is even a visual search which helps the customer to find furniture that suits what they already own.  It could be argued that this type of technology removes the need to visit a shop altogether, and, in some cases, that may be true, but there are also those who still wish to see an item “in the flesh”.  This is a perfect halfway house, allowing the customer to have a good idea of what they want, reducing their time in an actual store, but still visiting it. 

Research carried out by Deloitte in Canada during May/June 2020 has shown that even pre-pandemic, the “path to purchase” was already changing.  Their research indicated that mall foot traffic was already down by 22% (looking at data from 2018 compared to 2019).  By February 2020 their data showed a 42% decrease (February 2019 versus February 2020).  The popularity of self service checkouts, click and collect, store door pick up and simplified returns processes (returning items via a centralised returns area instead of a location in individual shops) has continued to grow.  Curbside delivery, embraced by independent shops and chains alike, has been popular and seems set to stay.  If we do visit a shop, it is quite likely that we know exactly what we want and already know almost everything about it. It is at this point that commercial business owners must up their game, for example, providing their sales assistants with access to up to the minute tech and data; their role will be as more of a “brand ambassador” assisting the customer and providing a more tailored service, aiding final decisions, suggesting suitable extras and delivery options.

Cleaning to create confidence

The need for sanitation has understandably increased since the pandemic hit but regular cleaning has been important for a long time. We are all accustomed to hand sanitiser dispensers and frequent cleaning schedules but what about other ways hygiene can be improved? Particularly with the assistance of technology?  Optimising indoor air quality (IQA) in spaces such as malls, cinemas and restaurants is one such area.  It isn’t just about providing fresh flowing air, but controlling the particles such as aerosolized pathogens, dust, and volatile organic compounds.  With the right system in place, it is also possible to boost essential elements found in air.  IQAir, providers of a variety of clean air solutions, created AirVisual Pro, a portable air quality monitor which is able to identify the level of particulate matter present.  The device provides real-time data such as CO2 levels, the air quality, temperature and humidity.  Using a variety of connection solutions from WiFi, ethernet and 4G, and being weatherproof, it is suitable for a host of environments and a perfect accompaniment to air filtration systems. 

Making a safe getaway

One industry hugely impacted by the spread of covid-19 is the travel industry.  Now travel bans have been lifted, and those of us who have received the vaccine are able to travel, if we wish, holiday and flight bookings are on the increase.  At the forefront of many minds, though, is how safe is it? 

Whilst forced to close, airports and airlines invested time and money into ensuring passenger and staff safety when reopening.  Biometric solutions such as facial, fingerprint and iris recognition are coming into their own.  Using such technology reduces contact at passenger touchpoint areas; check in, baggage drop, border clearance and even boarding.  Used to support existing systems like self service check in, these technologies streamline the customer experience and help to reduce the spread of the virus.  SITA, specialists in air transport communications and technology have recently launched SITA Smart Path.  Their shared airport infrastructure is available globally, already in place in more than 460 locations.  The solution uses facial recognition technology; users register once, via a mobile device either in advance from home, or once at the airport.  The user’s facial biometric data is linked to their travel documents.  At each touchpoint in the airport, check in, boarding and so forth, their face is scanned and matched with their travel documents, allowing them to pass through and travel.  It is already proving popular with passengers, who are benefitting from significantly quicker and easier travel.  At Beijing Capital International Airport, the Smart Path system was able to process over 400 passengers boarding a plane in under 20 minutes!

How to connect?

Many of the technologies being used to optimise public safety will require some form of connection, to allow for fast data transfer/sharing, to connect sensors, to keep mobile devices online and so forth.  LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) cellular tech such as NB-IoT (Narrow Band Internet of Things) and LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) provide the perfect solution.  Depending on requirements, different devices suit different solutions.  NB-IoT is perfect for low bandwidth data connections at a low cost such as sensors and monitors like those used to track air quality.  LTE-M is better for those needing higher bandwidth and mobile connections, working especially well in hard to reach areas, think monitors placed deep within buildings. 

At Arkessa, we deliver global LPWA connectivity solutions, so if you are wondering which cellular tech will best suit your connectivity needs as you get back to business, why not get in touch? Find us at connect@arkessa.com.

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