Collaborative Work Systems Inc.

Engineering Human Centered Collaborative Systems for Complex Work Environments

Collaborative Work Systems Inc.

Engineering Human Centered Collaborative Systems for Complex Work Environments

Adapting to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a need for people to maintain a "social distance" (e.g. at least 6ft/2m) to avoid potential airborne contamination and to avoid unnecessarily touching objects that might been touched by a contagious person. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of employees working at home (or more generally at a distance from each other), but this is not always practical for some types of work and there are other times when people need to go to common venues (such as stores and healthcare facilities). Contact tracing is a key strategy to combat the spread of the virus when people are together, and effective tools for at-a-distance communications and collaboration are needed for when they are apart.

CWS has two particularly relevant technologies that can help people adapt effectively and safely to the constraints and requirements that have resulted from Covid-19: (1) ScanKeeper is a software application to support attendance tracking and contact tracing; and (2) PointnTalk is a software application to support at-a-distance, asynchronous collaboration.

Proximity tracking applications have been developed so that smartphone-to-smartphone proximity can be automatically detected and contact tracing supported, but not everyone has a smartphone or is comfortable with that level of tracking

ScanKeeper is a web-based application developed by CWS that facilitates touch free, distance preserving, attendance taking to support contact tracing. It involves creating QR codes for each attendee and/or a QR code for a particular location, so that attendance can be recorded by simply scanning a QR code. Personal QR codes are printed on ID cards and distributed to regular attendees, and/or shared electronically via the Internet. Personal QR codes are scanned using a camera attached to a location managed computing device (e.g. laptop or clamped smartphone). Location QR codes are printed on a poster and these can be scanned by attendees with a smartphone to check-in. Either way, attendees do not have to touch a shared input device to confirm data entry and the data is automatically timestamped and recorded.

ScanKeeper was first used on July 19th 2020 to record attendance at the Wesley United Methodist Church, Lexington, KY. Most of the attendees were in the 65+ age group and did not own a smartphone, so the use of printed QR codes on identity cards was a good fit. Nationally, only 53% of the population in this age range has a smartphone, so the utility translates beyond this church and is particularly valuable given this age group is most at risk of serious consequences when the Covid-19 virus is contracted. The ability to create a QR code sign-in poster, similar to those required at certain venues in some countries (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, those in the United Kingdom, and Singapore), was added after this initial release, so that smartphone owners could utilize their phones and not need an ID card or to use a paper sign-in sheet.

For more information about ScanKeeper, or to register as a site administrator/visitor, go to

Technologies, such as Zoom, can support real-time face-to-face communications, but the quality of communications can be much lower when people aren't available at the same time

PointnTalk is a software application that allows the user to easily create and store voice-overs for one or more static images, with synchronized pointing and annotation marking. These recordings can then be sent or posted for playback by recipients who get a better sense of the sender "being-there" than slide show applications such as PowerPoint or Google Slides. The annotated set of images are stored using a standard W3C XML markup language to help facilitate sharing and interoperability. Importantly, this format is not a video format and therefore the filesize is relatively small. Microsoft Windows, Android, and Web versions of PointnTalk have been created by CWS.

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