Workers scan face with mobile app to find out if they are well

Kajima employee Gunasekar Udayakumar using the Nervotec app to scan his face through his phone’s camera and check his vital signs as part of a daily check-up for employees at a construction site in Singapore.
Kajima employee Gunasekar Udayakumar using the Nervotec app to scan his face through his phone’s camera and check his vital signs as part of a daily check-up for employees at a construction site in Singapore.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Ensuring migrant workers are well before they start each work day amid the coronavirus pandemic could be made easier with a smartphone app developed by a Singapore health technology start-up.

Before a person leaves for work, he just needs to scan his face for about a minute with the Awareness AI app through his phone's camera and it can tell if he might be ill.

Based on changes in the way light bounces off the person's face, the app can measure hard to detect "microblushes" that correspond to a person's pulse rate and volume of blood under the skin. These are used to calculate health indicators like his respiratory rate and blood oxygen levels.

If the worker has a respiratory illness such Covid-19, his breathing rate is likely to be faster and his oxygen levels lower.

The app was developed by local health technology start-up Nervotec under a government crowdsourcing initiative called the Open Innovation Platform.

It was created to solve a challenge posted by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in July last year to better manage Covid-19 screening and contact tracing at construction sites.

The app addresses the screening part and, for a month from early January, it was first tested with about 100 workers at a construction site under Kajima Overseas Asia. More tests are lined up.

Nervotec founder Jonathan Lau said the app can also help record and manage other related health information such as temperature logs and symptoms. The firm plans to add workers' Covid-19 swab test results and vaccination status information to the app.

By using artificial intelligence to analyse the data, a health score for the worker can be determined. This helps worksite supervisors decide if the worker is well enough to report for work and if actions like getting him swabbed for a Covid-19 test are necessary.

Nervotec charges $2 to $3 per user per month for the app.

Besides Kajima, Mr Lau said other companies in Singapore, Australasia and Nordic regions have expressed interest in using the app.


Nervotec founder Jonathan Lau showing the comparison in readings of vital signs between his company’s app (right) and a pulse oxygen monitor. The app can record other health data such as temperature logs and symptoms. PHOTO: REUTERS

"Beyond Covid-19, the app is applicable because companies still need to have an integrated worksite and workforce management system," he said.

The contact tracing part of BCA's challenge is handled by India-headquartered supply chain solutions firm TagBox, which has offices here and in the United States.

TagBox adapted a contact tracing solution it deployed at work sites in India last year for a trial with about 100 workers at the same Kajima worksite in January.


A Kajima construction site supervisor showing the TagBox contact tracing tag and briefing workers about it. PHOTO: KAJIMA AND TAGBOX

TagBox's solution includes a token-like tag in a card holder that exchanges Bluetooth signals with nearby tags to whom a worker was in close proximity with, not unlike the Government's TraceTogether tokens and app for contact tracing. The tags do not record workers' details like names or location data.

TagBox's tags have another feature to help workers maintain a safe distance - they emit a buzzing sound to alert workers if they are too close to one another.

Beyond Covid-19 contact tracing, TagBox plans to test the tags on equipment and restricted areas so that alarms will sound if unauthorised workers get too close.

The tag service's pricing is still being worked out but it could cost $4 per tag per month.

Kajima awarded $50,000 each to TagBox and Nervotec for their solutions.

BCA said that further testing and fine-tuning are being done before their solutions are ready for mass deployment.