Traditional office cleaning methods won't cut it in a post-Covid-19 world. A new crop of tech-enabled sanitation and safety products are gaining traction, including pollution zappers, fever detectors, and supercharged disinfectants. Here are three such devices that may become key tools in the battle to keep workers and customers safe.
1. Electrostatic sprayers
When disinfecting surfaces to prevent the spread of a deadly virus, additional precautions need to be taken.
"If you spray a bunch of tables then use a rag to clean all of them, what you basically did was move germs from one place to another," says Chris Gurreri, co-founder of Minneapolis-based Victory Innovations. The startup makes electrostatic sprayers that clean more thoroughly and efficiently. The sprayer gives your disinfectant solution a positive electric charge that causes the droplets to be attracted to neutrally charged surfaces like desks and walls, and to repel each other, leading to an even distribution over surfaces that prevents dripping. After a few minutes, the disinfectant kills the germs and the liquid evaporates. There's no need to wipe the surfaces down manually--just spray and go. A single person using one of the sprayers could sanitize an average-size 100-person office in about 10 minutes, according to Gurreri.
Victory sold about 500 units per month before the crisis began, but sales have surged to nearly 50,000 per month--with some products on backorder until August, according to the company. Delta Airlines is using the company's sprayers to disinfect its planes, and pro sports teams like the NFL's New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons are using them in their facilities. Other clients include schools, retailers, beauty parlors, manufacturers, gym chains, and branches of the U.S. military. Marriott recently announced it would be using electrostatic sprayers to sanitize rooms in all of its worldwide locations
"All the industry groups, as they go through their plan for reopening, are figuring out that electrostatic sprayers have got to be part of the solution," says Gurreri.
2. High-tech air purifiers
San Francisco-based startup Molekule makes air purifiers that the company says can combat the coronavirus. Unlike widely used HEPA filters, Molekule's purifiers don't just trap pollutants--they destroy them on the molecular level. In a recent test using a proxy for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the Air Mini removed 98.7 percent of the concentration of the virus from the air after running for two hours in a 1,000 square-foot room, according to the company.
"As more and more data comes in about how this virus transfers, we're all starting to recognize that it's not just about surfaces--the air has to be addressed as well," says Jaya Goswami, who co-founded the company with her father and brother in 2014. The startup has more than $100 million in funding, including grants from the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Goswami declined to share financial data, but says the company has seen an uptick in business since the crisis began. Last month, health care company Mercyhealth announced it would begin using the startup's medical-grade purifier, the Air Pro RX, at its hospitals.
3. Advanced cameras
Some tech has the potential to stop the spread of a virus before it happens.
San Francisco-based facial recognition startup Kogniz recently added heat-detecting capabilities to its security cameras, giving them the ability to detect when a worker is running a fever.
The cameras can also measure the distance between employees to help enforce social distancing. If an employee becomes sick, it can help the company compile a list of people that person had been in contact with.
The company has sold $700,000 worth of cameras for installation at tech campuses, retail stores, and manufacturing facilities in recent weeks. Co-founder Daniel Putterman told Business Insider that Kogniz is nearly doubling its staff size to keep up with demand and has received interest from the public sector, including at the federal level.
While facial recognition software can also serve as a way of providing touchless access to facilities--countries throughout Asia are already doing this--it's unclear whether U.S. companies will be able to adopt this method. Some local governments have already banned the tech, while others discussing banning it in the future.