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York Region Tech Companies Stepping Up: In the Fight Against COVID, PPE Isn’t Everything

People in Office Lobby

As COVID-19 continues to plague the country, the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) has been front and center. Some companies managed to pivot their business by providing masks and hand sanitizer after both became mandatory additions to everyone’s going out rituals. But the new reality is not just about PPE. Some York Region companies are providing products and services to help us weather the storm in other ways.

Facial Recogntion Scanning for Temperature and masks

Monitio Intelligence, from Markham-based AIH Technology is designed to ensure that individuals entering a building are wearing a mask and not running a fever in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Take Monitio Intelligence, for example. Powered by tech from Markham’s AIH Technology, its goal is to help enforce mask-wearing rules without exposing human screeners to undue risk. In partnership with the University of Waterloo, and funded with the help of the National Science and Research Council, AIH developed devices based on its core facial recognition technology that verify not only that visitors are wearing masks but that they are not feverish.

The tech is already deployed in several locations, including a hospital and a police station, and the company hopes that school boards will also consider adopting it. It can be adapted with different levels of service to check for mask and temperature of people in places like retail outlets, schools, hospitals, and airports, and heavier traffic areas.

AIH Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Ben Su said that the company is committed to the ethical and responsible use of facial recognition technology, and when COVID-19 disrupted its usual business, it decided to apply its technology to the screening process.

“Users want to automate the active screen process, both from the point of view of saving cost, as well as protecting the health and safety of the screening staff,” he said. “you don’t want  to  expose someone  to every single person walking into the building, just let the machine do that work, you are hopefully saving that person from risk of exposure, as well as saving on PPE usage.”

CrossWing's Cleanbot and an empty office

Aurora-based CrossWing is set to deliver 10 pilot units of the Cleanbot to Health Canada in early 2021.

While Monitio addresses the people issue, Aurora-based CrossWing deals with the things found around the office, classroom, building lobbies, etc.

Its Cleanbot disinfecting robots can safely go into areas that could be contaminated and sanitize them with ultraviolet light (UV) or by misting or fogging with chemicals. Unlike other UV systems, the battery-operated Cleanbot uses UV generated by LEDs rather than other types of bulbs which can be power-hungry, expensive, and contain toxic chemicals.

CrossWing Founder and CEO Steve Sutherland said, there are no trailing electrical cables that could drag pathogens along as the device moves. The UV Cleanbot’s light panels swivel so the robot can even sanitize itself.

The Cleanbot’s development was funded in part by a $1.6 million contract from Health Canada; ten pilot units are expected to be available by January 2021.

Vaughan’s Drone Delivery Canada (DDC), as its name suggests, delivers things by drone.

Drone Delivery Canada drone

Drone Delivery Canada has established a partnership with Georgina Island First Nations in York Region to deliver essential medical supplies by drone.

And its contribution to the COVID-19 response is in things like its recent agreement to provide delivery services of COVID-19 related cargo such as PPE and test kits to the Georgina Island First Nation in Northern York Region, and return samples to mainland labs for testing, thus minimizing person-to-person contact.

“As a leader in the industry, we are pleased to announce Georgina Island First Nation as a drone logistics customer,” said Michael Zahra, President & CEO of DDC. “The Community is expected to benefit from our drone delivery solution during the COVID-19 pandemic by limiting person-to-person contact between the mainland and Georgina Island, while keeping their medical supply chain open.”

The six-month project is funded by the government of Canada through Indigenous Services Canada, and is being treated as a proof of concept of the effectiveness of drones in keeping medical supply deliveries flowing while minimizing risk to people.

This is just a select few examples of the many York Region tech companies within our ecosystem working to develop non-PPE related innovations to support the fight against COVID-19.


Lynn GreinerLynn Greiner has been explaining technology to non-technologists (and business to technologists) in print and online for more than 20 years in publications such as IT World Canada, The Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, CIM Magazine, CPA Canada, CIO.com, and many others. She has a business degree from York University, and technical credentials from Ryerson and from many years as an IT professional.




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