As the world continues to adapt to a new normal considering COVID-19, the landscape of available information continues to change as we learn more about ways to track and mitigate the disease. Countries are beginning early-phase reopening to stem the financial losses of the second quarter of 2020. Here, we outline the key technology updates from our May 2020 report "Back in Business: Using Technology to Open During COVID-19" that are informing this evolving situation.
Validation of UV-C Light on COVID-19
UV-C light has been independently verified as conditionally effective against COVID-19. This means that it is now a safe and worthwhile investment to leverage UV-C lamps as viable environmental hygiene solutions. Even more importantly, far UV-C lamps have been validated, making the use of UV-C light in areas with people safe. Unlike typical UV-C light, light in the far UV-C range does not damage living human tissue, and can be deployed in populated areas. While there is still a lot of hype surrounding how effective lamps can be in some settings (it is important to consider light placement, as well as to ensure that people are not exposed to the lights), with careful consideration, UV-C lamps can be deployed successfully.
Digital Biomarkers Are Being Used to Assess the Likelihood of Infection
Wearables companies Fitbit and Oura have both launched enterprise products that allow users to assess their risk of infection. In this case, the risk of infection means the likelihood that an individual has a viral infection, not the likelihood that they will get an infection. This has important theoretical implications in that it has the potential to help verify self-assessment questionnaires before an employee comes to work. However, the most established research trials to identify digital biomarkers for COVID-19 specifically began in March, giving a scant three months in which to collect and analyze a data set of indeterminate size. Companies should be wary of adopting these solutions for any degree of COVID-19 specificity, but keep an eye on their market development. Beyond COVID-19, these tools represent the first consumer commercialization of digital biomarkers and, if successful, may portend future development opportunities.
Preliminary Data Regarding Antibodies Has Been Published
Early in the pandemic, there was hope that the presence of antibodies would convey future immunity, which led to a rush toward the development of antibody testing as a tool to determine if it was safe to return to work. Unfortunately, we are now seeing in peer reviewed publications that antibodies are only staying in the body for two to three months. This makes the use of antibodies to determine the safety of employees returning to work untenable, given that in many parts of the world (especially in the U.S.) testing is not as readily available, so determining a safe time when an individual has antibodies but is no longer infectious is not feasible.
For comparison to our published report, please see the figure below with updated scoring of the top 23 technologies being used to reopen businesses.
While many of the technologies described in our initial report have maintained their efficacy ranking, the space is evolving rapidly and in some cases highlighting business opportunities for a post-COVID-19 world. Companies should not become complacent due to constant news exposure but look to evolve with the newest information to maximize the safety of employees. The consideration of simple measures like hand washing should not be ignored, and neither should new materials advancements for higher-efficacy PPE and safer environments. Those interested should also be monitoring the technologies being developed for ways to engage, be it through a place in the supply chain, a new product, or an investment opportunity for technologies that are going to be of key importance moving forward.