De-Mist-ifying Contact Tracing – #MFD5

Contact tracing is all the rage right now. Many organizations are being tasked with reducing the risk of returning to the campus/workplace. Wouldn’t it be nice if your Wi-Fi network could provide data to help increase the safety of your guests? Mist’s Proximity Tracing is one of very few solutions I’ve seen that may actually be able to help solve this problem, and it does so in some interesting ways.

In general, contact tracing is intended to allow an organization to achieve an enhanced level of visibility/safety when it comes to reducing the spread of COVID-19. Theoretically, it does so by tracking the location of individuals within a facility and reporting on their proximity to one another. By tracing where a self-reporting COVID-19 positive person has been, those areas can be deep-cleaned and any people in those areas can be notified.

Mist developed Proximity Tracing by building on their existing location solution. Mist uses information received from their integrated BLE antenna arrays and the Wi-Fi radios to compute client locations. When combined with optional BLE badges and an app on the user’s mobile device, you can get some really impressive data.

When asked, Mist also recommends using BLE badges (a stick-on BLE tag that can be added to a traditional badge) to overcome the MAC privatization/randomization issue. Using a BLE badge would provide a unique way to identify a person without having to rely on a MAC address as the identifier.

In addition to being able to trace where an infected person has been, Mist’s Proximity Tracing can also be used to monitor the capacity of specific areas of the facility. For example, common areas, departments, and conference rooms can be monitored to ensure that they are abiding by the social distancing requirements. If more than the acceptable number of people consistently gather in any of the monitored areas, this report could be used to determine corrective action. For instance, posting additional signage or assigning security personnel in that space to ensure compliance.

In my opinion, the most compelling feature of this solution is the ability for a guest to use a mobile app to view the occupancy of the facility (store, workplace, conference center, etc.). This would allow a guest to view a map of the facility and avoid the areas that are highly populated.

It’s important to understand that none of the industry’s current Wi-Fi/BLE-based systems are capable of determining if two people were within 6′ of each other. As a result, they can’t be used (alone) to accurately report on every single person that a COVID-19 infected person came in contact with. Mist’s Proximity Tracing is intended to be used to report on zone-based location within a facility. This will allow you to notify people that were in the same are of a facility.

Here is a video of Mist’s presentation at Mobility Field Day 5, going into detail on their Proximity Tracing solution:

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