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With most Americans complying with nationwide stay-at-home orders enacted to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, a handful of states have nonetheless permitted construction sites to continue operations on “essential” projects. Site safety inspectors have therefore been left with the difficult task of ensuring that the workers they oversee are practicing all safety protocols as advised by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), that include maintaining a distance of six feet apart from one another, wearing face coverings over their noses and mouths during work hours, and minimizing interactions when picking up or delivering equipment or materials.

On April 6, the artificial intelligence (AI) company Smartvid.io unveiled Vinnie, a new feature for its interface that will be able to monitor construction workers’ level of compliance with the advised social distancing protocols as a virtual safety inspector. “The big thing with construction continuing to go on,” Josh Kanner, CEO and founder of Smartvid.io, told Engineering News Record, “is we’ve got some projects where the client is paying for extra labor on site to monitor people [for social distancing] and separate them.” While Smartvid.io has provided AI technology for construction sites for over three years, the pandemic presented an unexpected set of challenges that required quick advancements. According to the company’s website, Vinnie “has been trained to find—and count—a number of indicators of project risk in the areas of safety, productivity and quality” that include worker proximity and their use of personal protective equipment. Safety inspectors can either watch the footage in real-time or from recorded photos and videos, allowing their surveillance to be carried out beyond typical working hours.

For construction workers who may be concerned about any potential breaches of privacy afforded by the updated surveillance technology, Smartvid.io has made clear that “there is no facial recognition and never will be,” and that Vinnie “has been certified to be compliant with the strict privacy requirements specified by the European GDPR standard.”

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