FORT BRAGG, N.C. — –
The U.S. Army Reserve is about people first, but sometime it’s better to let a machine do the job during a time of social distancing.
New help arrived in the size of a mini-tablet to scan faces and temperatures of Soldiers and civilian employees who enter Marshall Hall, the headquarters building for both the U.S. Army Reserve Command and the U.S. Army Forces Command.
“We wanted people to feel safe when they came back to work, and also to see that products were being installed that would help them keep their distance,” said Charles (Tony) Jones, the facility manager for the dual-headquartered building.
A major benefit of this terminal is that it doesn’t require any touching, he said. The device is officially called a “Single Person Thermal Wrist Temperature Detection and Face Recognition Terminal.”
This tablet-like terminal has a camera and a thermal scanner. It sits on a stand that elevates it from the ground at around chest-level. As people enter the building, they lean over to photograph their faces. It takes a fraction of a second for the camera to take each photo.
“Please wear your mask,” a voice from the kiosk tells employees if it recognizes that their faces aren’t covered.
Then, the kiosk directs people to bring their wrist up, a few inches away from a side scanner that checks their body temperature.
A study conducted by medRx concluded that “wrist measurement is more stable than forehead measurement under different circumstance. Both measurements have great fever screening abilities for indoor patients.”
The kiosk includes a memory card (accessible only through a key) that stores up to 10,000 photos.
“We wanted to come up with a way that would take a picture for traceability,” said Jones.
That means even if someone enters the building with a normal temperature but later tests positive for COVID-19, the photo archive can help determine who came into the building around the same time, which can assist with contact tracing. Specifications on the device advertise it has a 90 percent facial recognition accuracy rate with a mask (99 percent without covering).
If the kiosk detects a high temperature – which can be adjusted and set to any degree – an alarm will alert the security guards on site. Security will then instruct the person who screened with a fever on what to do, including not being permitted into the building and seeking further medical screening.
“We re-check (the temperature) to make sure that the everything's working right, (but) the alarm will go off if your temperature is above the set mark,” said Jones.
Historically, 20,000 security card swipes take place each week from people entering the Marshall Hall building using various entrances, whether coming into work for the first time in the morning or returning from lunch or another appointment. That number dropped significantly to less than 8,000 weekly swipes when staff adjusted to COVID-19 as they relied more on teleworking.
Still, every person who enters Marshall Hall must have their temperature checked in the morning. The terminals aren’t fully implemented yet, but once they are they will reduce the need for Soldiers posted at each entrance for several hours scanning temperatures with a hand-held thermometer.
Although this preventative measure helps increase a sense of safety for employees, it also meant having Soldiers in close proximity to hundreds of people at a time as they come in. Also, every Soldier has a critical staffing role within these two headquarters, FORSCOM (a four-star command) and USARC (a three-star command). That means hours of work by senior-ranking Soldiers spent scanning temperatures and screening people instead of their regularly-assigned jobs.
Currently, only one building entrance has the terminal installed. As Marshall Hall phases to include the terminal at every entrance, Soldiers won’t be required to stand by with a thermometer, and they can return to their jobs. Although much of the building’s population shifted to teleworking, their workload and requirements never slowed down during the pandemic.
Soldiers remain assigned to each entrance as staff gets adjusted to this new screening device, but eventually this will become part of the new normal, and it won’t require anyone to man the entrances to check temperatures.
“The first day we put this out, the Soldiers loved it,” said Jones, who is looking forward to seeing every entrance implement this scanner.
All Soldiers and civilians entering the building are still required to self-monitor for other symptoms each day before reporting for work.