Two months ago, GM rapidly transformed its Warren, Michigan plant into a PPE production facility. Within a week of starting the project, it was pumping out masks with a target of at least 50,000 per day. That wasn’t the end of GM’s COVID-19 response, though.
GM realized it needed a solid return to work strategy for its workforce, which prompted it to develop additional solutions to minimize risk for its workers and their families. Using its own software developers, the company created a series of workplace safety applications to help create a safe work environment for its employees.
GM isn’t keeping its innovations to itself, though. Recognizing the need for businesses in all sectors to have access to technology that promotes safe work environments, it is making its tools available to other businesses, schools, and organizations worldwide.
Thermal Scanning Kiosk
In GM’s facilities, like many other workplaces, temperature screening has become part of the everyday process. Typically, it’s done by a designated employee – HR team member, manager, etc. – but GM has developed software to integrates infrared thermal cameras with a computer and monitor to automate the process.
Using code from the OpenCV open source project, GM’s solution automatically detects the presence of a worker in front of the camera and initiates the temperature screening, and then indicates whether the individual may enter or not. The whole process take only a few seconds and not only reduces close interaction between employees, but also reduces the burden on staff. The automated process also reduces the time for each screening, helping move workers along faster, especially during peak periods, such as the start of a shift, and also reduces the amount of time employees spend in proximity to others while waiting to be scanned. The scanning is effective when the worker is wearing a mask or face covering.
GM is already using temperature screening kiosks at many GM facilities in the U.S. and is planning to expand to other global locations. GM is making the software is available to help any workplace or facility with similar entry scanning needs.
Workplace Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is a key part of any COVID-19 response strategy. It’s almost impossible to avoid any confirmed cases, so the next logical step is to ensure good contact tracing is available to quickly reduce exposure risk as soon as an infection is confirmed.
GM has enhanced adapted the open source contact tracing application COVID Watch by adding real-time distance alerts, boosting performance on iOS and Android devices, and adding support for Bluetooth beacons.
The automaker is currently testing a mobile app designed to generate records for workers with a list of other users that have been in close proximity, to help medical staff communicate with employees that may have been exposed to COVID-19 when another employee tests positive. The app also constantly computes the physical distance between users and can send alerts to encourage safe behavior.
GM is planning a pilot to test the application soon, and will release its open source software to other developers who are working on contact tracing solutions.
GM has also developed a mobile web application that allows employees to print documents without having to touch printer keypads. Instead, they scan a QR code on their smartphones to activate the printing process. Printing is only the first of several touchless activities GM is working on, and has been implemented in GM sites globally. It released the open source software earlier this month.
Despite its own industry being impacted by the pandemic, GM quickly sought ways to make use of its expertise, relationships, and facilities to help address a problem facing the entire world. It’s the kind of innovation the global pandemic has ignited, and will ultimately help more companies provide safe work experiences for their employees.