By Clem Robertson.      

“Yes” says Clem Robertson, “so long as the fidelity and integrity of the captured data can be guaranteed”

The NHS has always been at the forefront of every political agenda. This longstanding institution is under constant pressure to deliver the highest standards of care with ever-diminishing funds and without compromising patient safety. Never have we appreciated its true worth more than over the last few months. Since March, in spite of PPE shortages, committed hospital staff and outreach teams have gone above and beyond the call of duty to respond to the health crisis. Without their dedication, a grave situation could have been so much worse.

Hospitals are heavily dependent on laborious processes for day-to-day operations

As we’re coming out on the other side, it’s becoming increasingly apparent how reliant our healthcare sector still is on manual processes for much of its security, day-to-day operations, for procuring critically urgent supplies, and for mobilising different teams in an emergency. Blue light services require staffed control rooms to manage first response teams. Hospitals are heavily dependent on laborious processes for many routine tasks such as these;

  • To ascertain how many beds are occupied at any given time
  • To determine the exact whereabouts of potentially life-saving supplies
  • To receive deliveries from “Organ” banks and research labs which at the mercy of favourable traffic conditions for most of their urgent deliveries

Delays over a certain timeframe and process inefficiencies can have irreversible consequences.

What if these different tasks did not require human involvement?

  • What if a CCTV camera could automatically rotate and focus on a scene or object of interest without manual intervention?
  • What if specialist beds or intensive care equipment could be located in real-time using existing security infrastructure combined with low-cost identification technology?
  • What if drones could be used for the urgent delivery of life-saving donor organs or vaccination supplies, providing status updates at the different stages for accountability and traceability?

As the NHS slowly returns to normal and look to introduce a range of different safety measures, automation is poised to play a vital role going forwards by helping to assure there are adequate fallback systems in place to capture the required location, security and situational data needed to undertake the tasks described above with minimal or no human oversight.

Location, classification and identification

One key area where progress can be made now is by automating location, classification and identification processes for essential assets or key members of staff, whilst at the same time having the capability to distinguish them from their immediate surroundings regardless of the weather or lighting conditions. Current CCTV camera technologies either sweep the scene at random or require a person to point the camera at a particular area of interest.

The ideal scenario is to remove the need for a manual operator altogether, but this has been somewhat challenging until now because of the limitations and high expense associated with many existing technologies.

As things currently stand, the fidelity of the data captured by cameras and Lidars cannot always be depended upon to acquire the levels of detail needed in all situations, such as poor weather or lighting conditions or at distances beyond 100 Meters.  What’s needed is an embedded solution that augments the fidelity of the data obtained by camera sensors, thus delivering unambiguous information and enabling swift, accurate decision-making.

A disruptive approach to situational and positional data accuracy

Thanks to a disruptive approach to the validation and accuracy of situational and positional data being spearheaded by a consortium of researchers, academics and commercial organisations, including R4DAR Technologies, the reality of such a solution might not be that far away.

Intended to operate alongside existing CCTV systems, drones and other tracking technologies, we’re investigating the feasibility of augmenting their situational awareness capabilities to determine:

  • What & who’s out there?
  • Where is it?
  • What’s it is doing?

In practical terms this would allow a CCTV controller to uniquely identify and distinguish key personnel such as paramedics, police officers or key workers within a busy emergency situation through a labelled video feed, along with an accompanying location map of the incident. The same principles could also be applied to drones and other tracking technologies to accelerate delivery or to monitor the status of equipment, patients and supplies, as they travel to location or through the building.

Covid-19 – the impetus for change

Healthcare organisations are long overdue a technology overhaul, but this has been held back by a myriad of factors, including implementation cost, antiquated infrastructures and legacy systems/processes. Following years of warnings that our NHS is becoming less and less able to cope with even routine demands, the outcome of the current pandemic could be the driving force needed to trigger a change. Automation holds great potential to safeguard patients and staff from future outbreaks and will lead to significant operational savings in the longer term. certifying the reliability of the data generated will be essential before it can be applied to real-world applications.