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The Tech Break

How Contact & Proximity Tracing Protects Your Employees & The Wider Community

Nov 10, 2020 / by Jeremy Rouse

Contact tracing diagraphic

When COVID-19 first emerged, many organizations found themselves pivoting quickly to remote work. Now, as companies cautiously re-open their offices and slowly welcome employees back, leadership teams are looking for ways to balance in-person work with employee and customer safetyContact and proximity tracing can play a huge role in allowing workers to return to the office safely, and companies are already well-positioned to leverage their existing network infrastructure to support these initiatives. 

What is Contact & Proximity Tracing?

One tool in our arsenal against the pandemic is contact and proximity tracingAt its core, the idea is simple: when someone gets sick, health officials retrace their steps and learn who they had direct contact with (contact tracing) and who they had passing contact with (proximity tracing). Traditionally a long and labor-intensive process, smartphone apps have significantly improved the speed at which these connections can be discovered. The data gathered by these tracing apps is also significantly more accurate than information that relies on human memory. 

Applications, such as this example developed by Aruba, can help ensure employee safety as they return to the office. 

Contact vs. Proximity: A Brief Primer 

Contact refers to someone you had direct contact with, such as a friend you met for coffee or the team you had a meeting with last week. Proximity looks at the larger picture and includes anyone you might have had contact with, such as other individuals who were shopping for groceries at the same time you were or the woman driving the bus you took to work this morning. 

Accurate data on both types of interactions is critical for determining who an infected individual may have inadvertently infected and allows health officials to notify potentially ill individuals so they can self-isolate and get tested. 

Why Your Company Should Consider Leveraging Your Network for Contact & Proximity Tracing 

 Assisting Public Health Efforts Benefits Everyone 

Accurate, detailed data is an incredibly powerful tool, particularly when it comes to tracking how disease spreads throughout a community. Scientists and public health officials require accurate data on the movements of unique individuals within the public sphere, and many organizations are uniquely positioned to leverage their existing network infrastructure to collect this valuable information. This could include relying on Access Points (APs) such as those produced by Aruba, which are able to listen to users, Wi-Fi devices, and Bluetooth tags and track individuals in your office in real-time. If someone in your building gets sick, the AP can forward the data to your Aruba Central cloud so your network can analyze the data it had collected to identify where that person went when they were there, and who they had contact with so you can alert the appropriate parties and disinfect potentially contaminated surfaces. 

From a public service perspective, relying on organizations to gather proximity and contact data on employees and visitors within the office lessens the load on potentially overburdened public health organizationsand private organizations benefit from the insight health officials can gain should an outbreak occur in their workplace. 

 Protect Employees & Limit Productivity Disruptions 

Should an infected but symptomless employee, vendor, or customer visit your office or retail space and then later report symptoms, your team can use the data gathered on your network to identify individuals that may have been affected and alert them so they can isolate immediately and get tested. This is vital not only for helping curb the spread of COVID-19 (and, by extension, similar diseases such as the seasonal flu) but can also help prevent entire teams, departments, or organizations being knocked out of commission, severely impacting productivity. 

By pairing tracing efforts with other initiatives such as social distancing and frequent handwashing, organizations can work to limit the spread of COVID-19 throughout their workforce, allowing employees to remain healthy and productive and limiting disruptions in the workplace. 

Preventing the spread of disease also means that lockdowns like those that paralyzed organizations across the world in the early days of the outbreak are less likely to be necessary. 

Alleviating Security Concerns  

One of the main reasons individuals remain hesitant to download and use contact and proximity tracing apps is security concerns. However, these concerns can be addressed and alleviated by working with security-conscious experts when modifying your network to support tracing efforts. 

Deploying Your Proximity & Contact Tracing App 

When deploying your proximity and contact tracing app in the workplace there are a few key points you should consider, including:  

  • Speed to deployment. The sooner an app can be deployed the faster your employees can return to work safely. To help companies stay safe and deploy their apps in a limited timeframe, Aruba has created two contact tracing options, both of which rely on using network telemetry. This data is gathered from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Power (BLP) telemetry, and can be tailored to work seamlessly with the infrastructure and management frameworks your team already has in place. 
  • Leveraging what you have. By choosing a contact tracing strategy that relies on your existing infrastructure your solution can be deployed faster. However, this also allows your team to better address any challenges related to ongoing manageability, and can help limit the risks associated with user behavior. Aruba’s solutions provide insight without the need to invest large sums in incremental infrastructure, yet also provide users with the ability to implement advanced granularity and use cases by adding purpose-built hardware and compatible solutions from Aruba’s vast partner ecosystem. 

All of our solutions depend on high-quality technology from trusted partners like Aruba. We’re confident recommending Aruba products to our customers because they share our commitment to quality and conduct their business with the same client-focused approach our customers expect from us. 

If you are interested in learning how your organization can leverage Aruba products to add contact and proximity tracing capabilities to your network, the BirdRock team is here to help.  

Topics: COVID-19, Business Continuity Planning, Contact Tracing, Proximity Tracing

Jeremy Rouse

Written by Jeremy Rouse

In 2012, Jeremy Rouse joined Bird Rock Systems as an Security Architect and Virtual CISO. Jeremy has 20+ years working in IT and Security with Blue Chip and DOD industries. Jeremy has a passion for technology, innovation and helping customers develop and mature their cyber security programs. Jeremy is actively engaged in speaking engagements and security events. He is a member of multiple security organizations and holds the following certifications: CISM, CISSP, AWS CSA, MCSE, CCNA, ACE, VCP, ACMP

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