January 18, 2021

Introducing NATIX Virtual Doorman

As the world is experiencing unprecedented events, governments and health organizations are working closely on developing safety measures to contain the recent virus outbreak. While preventive measures such as social distancing, face mask protection, maximum occupancy and others are of utmost importance and deemed necessary, businesses have to cope with the severe burden of the imposed regulations or of being shut down completely otherwise.

Why now?

Although some countries have already started to ease the imposed regulations, others still prevail. For instance, many European countries (e.g. Germany, Austria, France, Poland, etc.) require their citizens to wear protective face gear in public places. Almost everywhere, it is mandatory to wear protective masks in public indoor areas and small spaces such as public transport, supermarkets, shopping malls, etc. To ensure that visitors are complying with such rules, businesses are instructed to delegate some of their staff to supervise the visitors at the entrances. Failure to do so results in monetary penalties per visitor (in some countries reaching up to EUR 1,000). Needless to say that this incurs additional operating costs for businesses that have already been affected by the current outbreak.

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Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Now, while most expect this outbreak to be temporary, the aftermath of it will have an enormous impact on businesses as we move towards the “new normal”. So, how can we tackle these burdens caused by the COVID regulations for businesses?

What is a “Virtual Doorman”?

NATIX has developed a Virtual Doorman that caters to the needs of indoor public places such as shops and shopping malls, public transport, airports, hospitals, and more. In short, it provides anonymized real-time mask detection and occupancy monitoring. NATIX Virtual Doorman has four main features:

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1. NATIX reminds visitors to wear face masks at the entrance. If a visitor is about to enter the premises without a face mask, the Virtual Doorman shows a warning message via an LCD located at the entrance.

2. NATIX keeps track of the number of visitors at any given point in time. The data is then displayed on the entrance LCD, informing visitors on the real-time occupancy in the premises. This real-time information can also be used on the premises’ website and/or app to allow visitors to make better decisions about their visiting time.

3. NATIX anonymizes sensitive data such as the facial features of the visitors by using on-camera anonymization and other privacy-preserving mechanisms aligned with European guidelines for data privacy (e.g. GDPR). Thus, no personal identifiers leave the cameras.

4. NATIX notifies the administrators (or the person in charge) about any misconduct — visitors entering the premises without masks or although the maximum capacity has been reached — so they can take actions accordingly.

How does a virtual doorman compare with the existing infrastructure?

As more and more public places like shops and restaurants return to their normal operations, efficient solutions are required to adhere to the recent safety regulations, while keeping additional cost at a minimum. Currently, most businesses are dealing with the new regulations by tasking their employees to supervise the entrance at all times. This can, of course, be costly and is prone to error and confusion.

Unlike those solutions, NATIX Virtual Doorman doesn’t impose large or any additional infrastructure costs as most supermarkets, retail shops, etc. already have cameras and LCDs installed. In cases where such infrastructure doesn’t exist, an affordable one-time implementation is sufficient.

Moreover, by allocating some of their personnel solely on the surveillance of the COVID safety regulations, businesses sacrifice other, previously prioritized tasks, such as theft protection and other misconducts. With NATIX Virtual Doorman, businesses no longer have the need to trade off some of their security measures as employees can focus on their usual security efforts.

Also, as with any physical surveillance, errors and downtime are considered normal and occur on a regular basis. While we are continuously optimizing NATIX Virtual Doorman, it nevertheless ensures 24/7 (or full-time operating hours) surveillance.

What about privacy concerns?

Lastly, NATIX Virtual Doorman does not compromise the privacy of the customers and employees. The LCD at the entrance of the shop shows the blurred real-time image of the visitors when they enter the premises. This way, the LCDs provide visitors with the full transparency of how and what sort of data is collected and displayed. The current perception of CCTV is similar to modern airport body scanners when they were first introduced. At first there was, reasonably, a lot of privacy-related turmoil about the video output of these scanners. Responding to these concerns, the airports and manufacturers simply demonstrated to the public what the output images of the scanners actually looked like. This rapidly wiped out all worries. The way it was handled proves that anonymization and providing transparency to the visitors and customers easily resolves privacy-related concerns and NATIX Virtual Doorman is doing just that.

If you are still not convinced, have a look at our latest demo to see how the anonymization techniques work in practice.

Curious to know how we can support your business? Drop us an email at hello@natix.io.

DISCLAIMER: This post only reflects the author’s personal opinion, not any other organization’s. This is not official advice. The author is not responsible for any decisions that readers choose to make.