COVID reopening: AI cameras may help businesses, schools maintain social distancing

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As many businesses look to reopen following the pandemic, they are looking for new solutions to help employees keep their distance and stay healthy.

7 On Your Side Investigates got an inside look at the technology behind one solution being offered by a Manhattan based company called Actuate.

The company uses artificial intelligence to help businesses, schools, housing complexes and other facilities combat the coronavirus by tapping into surveillance cameras and identifying when and where people are getting too close together and for how long.

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Doctors are recommending people keep a distance of six feet to help prevent the virus from spreading.

Actuate developed the program using the same technology it had previously used to develop security software that detects guns and intruders on properties.

"Building plans are necessary and we see that as the first stage, but as a lot of famous people have said, 'No battle plan survives contact with the enemy,'" Actuate CTO Ben Ziomek said. "What our technology does is bring you from plan to reality, and says, what are those surprises? How are people actually interacting with the measures you put in place with COVID-19? And how is the existing structure of your building helping or hurting your return to office plan?"

Users receive daily reports from Actuate indicating how often people came within six feet of each other, how often, for how long and in what locations.

Users can also request to receive an immediate alert whenever a violation is detected.

The technology does not identify or track individuals, rather it focuses on how far apart people are staying from each other.

Already, Actuate has helped one New York City housing complex identify a congestion area in the building lobby and resolve it.

The company has also demonstrated to schools how their program can help as districts around the country consider plans for returning to the classroom.

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Dr. Ted Long, vice president of ambulatory care at New York City Health + Hospitals, oversees New York City's test and trace efforts and called the technology a promising idea.

"In the workplace, it's challenging," Dr. Long said. "I would say anything that would help our employers be successful in maintaining the principle of social distancing would be a good thing."

Actuate can apply its technology to existing surveillance systems starting at $10 a month per camera.

Because of privacy laws, they couldn't give us specifics about what companies they are currently serving.

Their technology is one of many possible solutions coming out of the pandemic designed to help businesses and individuals maintain health and safety.

Up to 4,000 coronavirus cases prevented by NYC contact tracers
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio along with local health experts have repeatedly called contact tracing a key element in preventing another spike of coronavirus in the city.


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7 On Your Side Investigates: Up to 4,000 coronavirus cases prevented by NYC contact tracers
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio along with local health experts have repeatedly called contact tracing a key element in preventing another spike of coronavirus in the city.



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