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Pandemic Worries Turned into a Peace-of-Mind Tracking Solution

2020 was a difficult year for everyone, bringing changes that have altered the way we live our lives. This time last year, many of us had never heard of the now-abundant buzzwords “social-distancing,” or “contact tracing.”

These changes have hit businesses across the world, throwing us all into uncharted territories and cementing our roles in our employees’ health and safety. With CDC guidelines frequently changing and virus mitigation protocols varying from state to state, this adjustment has been far from easy.

Since last year, we witnessed companies overcome these unforeseen circumstances, engineering powerful solutions to stay ahead of the virus and keep our employees safe. One of these companies is our partner Zebra Technologies, which used its own experience with the pandemic to create an intuitive contact-tracing software compatible with Zebra line products. This peace-of-mind tracking solution helps employees stay safe while maintaining productivity in companies across the world.

Intuitive Technology Born Out of Necessity
With warehouses in multiple countries and thousands of employees moving throughout its facilities daily, Zebra had a dilemma on its hands; How can employees remain productive while also adhering to CDC guidelines? Zebra’s leadership brought this concern to Kent Landry, the Director of Location Solutions Sales for North America, who theorized that the very answer to this question lay in the company’s own equipment.

“There (were) a couple of options, considering that our employees wear a Zebra device,” Landry said. “We could use that device as part of the technology platform to enable this solution.”

With this in mind and the clock ticking, the company deployed over 100 engineers worldwide to work on this project. Two months later, they launched MotionWorks Proximity, a cloud-based platform compatible with existing Zebra products that records employee movements throughout the facility and reports over the cloud, easily enabling contact-tracing.

How the Tracking Solution Works
For Landry, the benefit to using wearable technology was clear and simple: Each Zebra mobile device comes equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). This technology enables devices to communicate with one another. The design team realized that calculating the distance between BLE beacons, applied within an environment, would provide a wealth of information.

Digging Into Data
With this technology, they developed a better understanding of its employees’ movements and behavior. This included their social patterns and whether they were effectively socially distancing during their shift. When employees stand within six feet of each other, their mobile devices will sound or buzz to indicate that they need to disperse.

After working on the software piece of this solution, the team moved to the next phase: Making the technology compliant with HIPAA regulations. One roadblock a company may face when contact tracing is the protection HIPAA places on personally identifiable information. With MotionWorks Proximity, companies instead identify employees through their handheld devices by use of barcode scanners. This data includes when employees start and end their shifts, and their movements throughout their shift.

MotionWorks’s cloud platform collects and stores this abstracted information, and only human resources can access it. The system does not store the employee’s name, in compliance with HIPAA.

“You have an operational view to see what was occurring in (your) business,” Landry said. “Were people exposed? Was there too much dwell-time person-to-person that was spreading the virus potential?”

This comprehensive data on day-to-day operations enables businesses to take streamlined, proactive approaches to preventing the virus from spreading, such as identifying which areas specifically need sanitization throughout the warehouse, and whether there is a greater need for contact tracing.

By blending CDC guidelines with HIPAA standards, Zebra’s platform met the requirements articulated at the federal and state levels. With both phases of the project complete, Zebra began offering this peace-of-mind technology to businesses across the nation.

Perks of Contact Tracing
Zebra knew it was important that this technology reached employers as soon as possible. Because the company built on the products they already manufacture, the MotionWorks Proximity platform is compatible with multiple product lines. Companies that use Zebra products do not have to update their current infrastructure, making the update quick and  seamless.

Since implementing this new system, companies say they are seeing a change in employee operations. Even Landry reports a shift in Zebra’s workflow interactions, with up to 75% reduction in “contact alert events.” These events occur when employees are too close to one another for a given time.

Additionally, companies that use MotionWorks Proximity save time and resources when they discover a COVID-19 case. Before, companies typically deployed a team to survey each facility to determine where and with whom the infected employee worked. With MotionWorks, this information is easily accessible, decreasing the time it takes to contact trace by 90%, Zebra reports.

“We’ve seen that significant improvement, reducing the number of hours it takes to track that down, to make a decision, to get that decision ratified by the management, and then continue to keep that business open,” Landry says.

With so much changing over the past 12 months, this peace-of-mind solution enables businesses to stay open and maximize employee safety. MotionWorks Proximity allows businesses to rest assured that employees are following CDC guidelines and that they took proper measures to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Hear About its Beginnings for Yourself
Are you interested in hearing more about MotionWorks Proximity and its origin? Listen to our interview with Zebra Technologies’ Kent Landry on our most recent episode of AB&R and The Connected Supply Chain.
Compatible for You?
Do you want to know if your current infrastructure is compatible with MotionWorks Proximity? Reach out to see which product lines are compatible with the platform.



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