As the UK begins to ease the restrictions of lockdown, it will be imperative that there are measures in place to ensure the safety and security of citizens going back to work, school and daily activities. Startups across the UK have come up with innovative new ideas to tackle challenges presented by Covid-19 such as how to ensure social distancing, rethink transport in city centres, and get people back to work. From factory workers, to city commuters, to students, here are 10 startups using tech to help us to return to a new normal.
New research conducted in May by People 1st International has revealed that Britons feel ready to return to work, school and leisure activities, provided the correct measures for health and safety are in place. Unsurprisingly, the study shows that younger people will be a driving force when it comes to kick-starting the economy.
The research involves responses from over 2,000 adult Brits who were asked what would influence their decision to take part in activities such as visiting pubs, restaurants, gyms, beaches and shops. From the results of the survey, over 50% of respondents rated the importance of the following factors when considering going back out into society; crowd levels, ability to social distance, confidence in infection control measures, cleanliness and hygiene, and confidence that staff had been trained in new measures.
Below are some of the startups helping to tackle a number of challenges facing the ability of the country to come out of lockdown efficiently and safely.
Ability to social distance
With shops and retailers now allowed to open their doors, ensuring customers are adhering to social distancing and keeping 2m apart is a key part of the re-opening phase. Irish startup The Line Lite has created a digital booking system that allows customers to pre-book shopping visits and to help retailers monitor the amount of customers in their premises. Solutions like these will help to reassure both customers and retailers that social distancing can be maintained at all times.
As the restrictions loosen, it is also important that those needing to return to work are protected and safe. Norwich-based startup Pathfindr was founded in 2016 and started out using IoT technology for indoor wayfinding. The company made its way in the tech scene by providing technology to track cats on the BBC’s secret life of cats program, before signing a contract with Rolls Royce. During the crisis Pathfindr decided to use its technology to create wearable personal safety devices aimed at helping workplaces meet physical distancing protocols. Pathfindr clients have implemented the devices, and can be worn on a lanyard, into workplaces such as factories, warehouses, logistics hubs and construction sites to ensure distancing.
Crowd control is also an issue which is at the forefront of people’s minds when entering back into society. In big cities it has previously been difficult to predict when central areas will become busy and overcrowded. Landing AI has built a ‘social distancing detector’ using AI technology to track individuals in open spaces using computer vision layered on surveillance footage to detect if people are keeping a safe distance from each other.
Cleanliness and hygiene
Another huge logistical challenge is keeping social spaces clean and maintaining hygiene standards at all times. In order for workplaces, shops, and restaurants to open, a new standard of cleanliness and sanitation is essential. However, personal hygiene is still perhaps the most important thing to remember when venturing back into society.
Surewash, a Dublin based startup has created software reminding you to wash your hands, teaching the WHO’s technique to workers, patients and visitors in hospitals. During the crisis, Surewash launched an app for the general public to remind people how to effectively wash their hands and conform to maximum hygiene standards.
Immutouch is an American startup producing wearable technology which vibrates every time you touch your face. The smartband keeps germs on your hands out of your mouth, nose & eyes which could greatly reduce the spread of Covid-19 and other viruses. The band connects to an app on your phone which allows wearers to track hand position and alert them to any hazardous habits.
Managing a newly remote workforce
As it stands the government's advice remains that those who can work from home should stay working from home. This means workers in most jobs across the country have now endured months of working away from their teams and offices. Many employers have had to drastically adapt to new challenges presented by their employees working from home and manage their teams remotely.
Corporate training platform Hone is a leadership, management and people skills training platform helping organisations manage a newly remote workforce. The platform has been helping organisations affected by the current crisis by providing a way for newly dispersed employees to stay connected and working as a productive team, without feeling isolated. With many companies now allowing their employees to work from home indefinitely, startups like Hone will become increasingly relevant.
A new era of inner-city transport
Reducing the use of cars is a new priority for cities across the UK as the government announced in May that it was going to enable trials of e-scooters to deliver a ‘green re-start’ of public transport that eases the burden on the transport network and allows for social distancing.
This decision has begun a battle of the european mobility startups fighting to roll out their scooters across the UK. Contestants include Swedish scooter startup Voi who have said they’re in conversations with TfL and several London boroughs, as well as numerous cities including London, Manchester, Bath and Edinburgh. Other contestants include Tier, Lime, Bird and Dot.
Coordinating staff in hospitals and the care sector
As the number of patients in hospital beds with Covid-19 decreases, doctors and nurses can start to look after more patients with other problems. Many treatments and operations which had been pushed back during the peak of the crisis are now available and managers of hospitals face new challenges organising and allocating staff to different areas.
Patchwork Health is a startup that has been offering the NHS free access to their Covid-19 bank solution to manage temporary staffing requirements at scale. Patchwork’s app also allows hospital staffing teams to connect directly with staff banks as well as reach over 75,000 clinicians through their partnership with the BMJ.
Older people, especially those in care homes have been disproportionately affected by the virus and it will continue to be important to make sure they are getting the best care even once lockdown eases. Cera care’s digital platform vets, trains and offers jobs to people wanting to work in the care sector. During the midst of the pandemic Cera formed a new partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care providing over 24,000 care companies & organisations across the UK with free access to this fully digitalised recruitment platform, connecting them to candidates who are ready to work.
Helping people find jobs
The crisis has left many across the UK furloughed and some have lost their jobs. The UK has seen a 58% drop in hiring over the last two months, and as lockdown restrictions loosen, the government is hoping to kickstart the economy and getting people re-employed will remain a key priority.
Job vacancy site Adzuna recently paired up with the Office for National Statistics to use data collected by Adzuna to power a real-time job vacancy index. This data will feed into a report from the ONS on the current state of the UK job market and the economic impact of the pandemic. The data collected will give policymakers, investors and analysts important insight into how to get people back to work.
Students have also been hit hard by the pandemic and many graduating this year will be worried about how to enter the job market while the economy recovers from Covid-19. Furthermore, with shops, pubs and restaurants closed many students have been left without part time jobs through the summer making it harder to earn money and support themselves financially. Peer tutoring platform Yourtime was founded last year and allows students to earn money by becoming a tutor to other university students. The platform creates relevant opportunities for knowledge sharing and a two-in-one app enabling students to earn, become more employable and better their knowledge.
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