AI system tracks COVID-19 in food factories

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Empiricai's new system can detect violations to social distancing rules and if employees aren't wearing PPE
Empiricai's new system can detect violations to social distancing rules and if employees aren't wearing PPE

Related tags: coronavirus, Artificial intelligence

Identifying COVID-19 symptoms and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning were key topics in our exclusive interview with Salman Chaudhary, chief executive of AI systems developer Empiricai.

Chaudhary spoke to Food Manufacture ​about how computer vision AI – computer systems that use visual data, including camera footage, from within factories – can be used to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19.

Empericai’s system could detect when a member of staff was not wearing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) or not adhering to social distancing guidelines on the shop floor, he said.

AI being used to detect violations to social distancing rules
AI being used to detect violations to social distancing rules

Real time system

This data – combined with measures such as regular temperature checks – could then help identify coronavirus hotspots within the factory in real time and to educate staff on how effective current measures are.

Chaudhary explained that users of Empiricai’s system had been able to identify patterns of risk within their businesses over time.

Empiricai’s use of AI and machine learning could track the virus even if infected employees were asymptomatic. That compared to more costly systems of testing and isolating employees that could only detect when a member of staff was showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Expensive methods of screening

Commenting on the system, he said: “Some manufacturing plants have put in place some expensive methods of screening all employees before they enter a plant – in some cases even creating dormitories on-site – and creating longer ​[shift] rotations between groups of employees.

“We think that those are excellent measures, but they are costly from both a material perspective and the human cost of keeping people isolated and away from their families.”

Meanwhile, the Welsh Government-backed COVID-19 Resilience Group has set up hotlines and a downloadable resource to support food and drink manufacturers​ across Wales in dealing with the impact of the pandemic.

Related topics: COVID-19, Industry 4.0, Technical

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