Contact Tracing: Uses, Pros and Cons

By Bernhard Mehl
June 03, 2020

Contact tracing is a term that has been used for many years in the public health sector. It is a method to track who has come into contact with an individual who has contracted a certain infectious disease.

In light of the current global pandemic, it is a term that has come into common usage. However, what exactly does it involve, and how can it be applied to everyday situations like an office working environment?

To gain some insight into this practice, and how it can be used to limit the spread of highly infectious diseases like COVID-19, this article will explore some of the most recent technological developments in contact tracing. We also discussed the pros and cons of these and how access control systems, like Kisi, can assist. 

Recent Technological Developments 

One of the most talked-about applications includes the use of Bluetooth. Simply put, mobile phones and other devices come into contact with many other Bluetooth activated devices over time. Especially when a person is moving around.

By keeping a record of all the Bluetooth devices a person comes into contact with, instead of deleting them, the owners of these periphery devices can be notified anonymously if they have come into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

These applications have been put into practice to varying degrees in countries across the world, most notably in East Asia. In this part of the world, certain countries have already developed contact tracing response measures to deal with previous epidemics. 

Pros and Cons of Contact Tracing

In itself, contact tracing is really just about figuring out who an infected person has come into contact with. In many cases, this is done manually through interviews and phone calls. However, in the case of a pandemic, manual processes take too long. Therefore, quicker measures need to be put in place to curb the spread of the disease and not overwhelm the public health system.

So, new technologies, like Bluetooth, offer a quick and simple way to notify people if they have come into contact with an infected person. Then they can self-isolate and get treatment if necessary. How this works in practice is that the person gets notified with an alert on their phone. The alert includes information on what to do next and who to contact if they are experiencing symptoms. 

However, these anonymous alerts are very unspecific. This could lead to unnecessary panic unless certain parameters are introduced. For example, this could include only getting notifications if the device in question has come within a certain radius of a person for a certain length of time.

Since many of these applications require an opt-in process, due to data privacy regulations, keeping track of people also becomes only as effective as the number of people using this kind of service. 

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How Kisi Can Help Track Movements With Access Control

One way to help with contact tracing efforts in a workplace environment is to know exactly who has entered your building and when. While this process is difficult to do manually, using integrated systems and advanced data analytics can keep track of who was in the same place at the same time.

In fact, with the amount of data that a consistently monitored access control system collects, tracking people and their movements becomes much more efficient. You can access real-time information as well as a comprehensive log of exits and entries over time.

With integrated cameras, you can streamline this process even further with video footage of everyone who comes into contact. 

While the future of workplace management is set to change in the months ahead, regulated access control can also help to limit the number of people entering a space. This will help to comply with social distancing regulations. Companies looking for outsourcing services can use Kisi's access control/cloud management software to easily track who enters their building. 

Final Thoughts

In the article above, we’ve explored the basics of contact tracing and some of the most recent developments, which include Bluetooth activated alert systems on mobile phones and devices. 

We’ve covered some of the pros and cons of using this method to track who has come into contact with an infected person. In addition, we explored some of the ways that access control can help to track and, if necessary, limit the number of people coming into and out of a building. 

Overall, while building layout and management will shift radically in the months ahead, keeping track of who enters your building from a security standpoint is always critical.

Bernhard Mehl

Bernhard is the co-founder and CEO of Kisi. His philosophy, "security is awesome," is contagious among tech-enabled companies.