Outdoors all that is given to us by satellites, the GPS gives it But indoors, no. Because inside buildings there is no signal comments Senén Barro (As Pontes A Coruña, 1962) Professor of Sciences of Computing and Artificial.
Intelligence at the University of Santiago de Compostela and awarded for his contributions in artificial intelligence with the José García Santesmases 2020 National Information Technology Award, an award jointly organized by the Spanish Scientific Information Society and the BBVA Foundation.
Barro is also scientific director of CiTIUS (Singular Center for Research in Intelligent Technologies of the University of Santiago de Compostela) from which the spin off Situm Technologies emerged , which uses a technology for indoor navigation. “A mobile has more than a dozen sensors: accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer … it communicates via WiFi and bluetooth with the environment. All of this can be used so that the mobile can locate itself thanks to this information “, he explains. “And if you locate the mobile, you will locate who is carrying it.”
The scientist explains that before the pandemic, companies used Situm for surveillance and prevention services against risky conditions. After the confinement, the researchers wondered if their technology could help in this unprecedented situation and added a new service within the existing one ( Situm COVID-19 ). Now, the application can have three uses, according to the company itself: alert the worker about the breach of interpersonal distance, notify when the number of people in a room could prevent maintaining the safety distance (control of capacity) and monitor the movements of people over time.
This last function, which has turned out to be the most demanded by companies, allows going backwards -always within the workplace- in the steps and relationships of a person diagnosed as positive for covid-19. In this way, specific areas can be disinfected and those workers with whom they have had significant contact can be tested, which would avoid quarantining entire floors of buildings, and the economic cost that this entails. “What has been verified in the last months of commercialization of this service”, explains Barro, “is that companies are mainly interested in this last case of use, and not so much the first two”.
The first thing that is done is a simple mapping to know the projection of the existing WiFi signal at each point of the building, which will allow a first approach when locating a mobile. Next, the workers would install the app and activate the WiFi of their device (if it is deactivated, it does not geolocate the person).
For recent Android models, nothing else would be necessary, for older Android models or Apple iOS systems it would be necessary to install position beacons to increase the positioning accuracy. The location and monitoring that this app performs on the worker only works within the work environment and it is the company that agrees with the employees the rules of use of the service and the privacy terms applied.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) does the rest. It is responsible for integrating multiple signals, both from the environment and from the mobile itself, “more reliable and robust than the use of bluetooth” -comments the scientific director of CiTIUS- “although this does not in any way invalidate the use of contact tracing apps , given that these have to operate both indoors and outdoors and without geolocation in absolute values as it is sensitive information and not essential for this purpose “.
However, Barro concludes, indoors, which is where most infections occur, Situm’s technology is much more accurate and reliable than the mere use of Bluetooth , and can provide more information and in a much more exact way about possible infections.