Big Four firm PwC has developed a contact-tracing app to make the reopening of its offices – and its clients’ workplaces – safer.
As states look to loosen Covid-19 shelter-in-place restrictions, employers are examining ways to make their workplaces safer in the lingering pandemic context. This can include reconfigured office spaces, partial workforce returns, the use of plexiglass shields and masks, and temperature checks at offices.
The use of apps to keep track of cases of coronavirus is another important avenue. PwC’s new Automatic Contact Tracing app helps organizations quickly identify employees who have come in contact with a Covid-19 positive employee, pinpointing exposures to avoid blanket shutdowns of operations or teams.
PwC’s app downloads onto employee phones (or alternate on-person devices) and turns the device into a beacon when it enters the geofenced location of the office. The beacon interacts with other employee devices to track frequency and proximity of contact.
When an employee is logged as a Covid case, the app identifies all the other phones that employee’s phone came in contact with over the previous 14 or 21 days. The level of contact is then rated as high, medium, or low, based on the strength of the signal.
The app, which has been tested in one of PwC’s China offices, is distinctly a workplace-bounded contact tracer, as opposed to a recently announced application from Apple and Google which functions on a wider, societal level.
According to a PwC poll of 305 US chief financial officers, 22% plan to implement some sort of contact tracing. There is a large incentive for companies to institute safety measures such as tracing, since outbreaks can lead to closures, reduced profits, employee deaths, and the prospect of legal liability. Additionally, US employers are the main suppliers of healthcare, so protecting employee health is even more incentivized.