General Motors is sharing new technology it has developed to boost workplace safety during the Covid-19 pandemic. The company’s in-house software developers created solutions aimed at helping employees return to work while streamlining and improving workplace safety protocols.
“We had to respond quickly to the challenges the Covid-19 pandemic created for our workforce,” said Randy Mott, GM executive vice president and chief information officer. “Our teams collaborated online with experts around the world to quickly innovate and support the safe return of our employees to the workplace. We know many of these challenges affect others globally. We felt it important to share our innovation so other companies, organizations and institutions could benefit from our experience.”
Like many companies, GM workplace protocols call for an entry process that includes a thermal evaluation, normally administered by another worker. GM has developed new software code that integrates with the operation of an infrared thermal camera with a computer and monitor, automating and streamlining the entire process.
Using open-source code from the OpenCV project, the system automatically detects when someone has stepped in front of the camera and checks for an elevated skin temperature, indicating whether it is safe to proceed or the entrant needs further evaluation. The process can take as little as 1-2 seconds, and the scan is effective when the worker is wearing a mask or face covering. GM is using this technology through kiosks at numerous facilities and plants across the United States and will be expanding to other global locations soon.
Another advancement in technology is GM’s improvements to Covid Watch, an open-source contact tracing application. GM added real-time social distance alerts, boosting performance on both the iOS and Android devices and added support for Bluetooth beacons. This software upgrade will be available soon. GM is testing a mobile app that would create a record for the employee, listing other users with whom he or she has been in contact, which could help medical staff reach and inform employees faster if they have been in contact with a worker testing positive for Covid-19. GM is planning a pilot test of the application soon.
And for the office, GM has developed an app called Touchless Print, which allows employees to print documents without touching the printer’s control panel, leveraging instead a QR code scanned through the employee’s mobile phone. Currently the app is in use at GM facilities worldwide and is exclusive to HP printers. This open-source software for the app was released earlier this month.
“Touchless printing is a first step, as the team is also working on using technology to make other daily activities more hands-free,” said Tony Bolton, GM chief information officer of global telecommunications and end-user services.
To learn more about these innovations and GM’s efforts to help during the pandemic, visit www.gm.com/coronavirus.html.
In the South, GM has plants at Spring Hill, Tennessee; Bowling Green, Kentucky and Arlington, Texas.