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Tracking a socially distant workplace during COVID-19

Triax Technologies CEO Robert Costantini joins Yahoo Finance to discuss how the company’s Proximity Tracers are helping employees stay socially distant while in the workplace amid COVID-19.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: Apple and Google have rolled out a new option for their devices called, Exposure Notification Express. It allows users to track and alert one another about coronavirus infections. But for workers in construction sites and similar environments, this product already exists. Triax Technologies has developed proximity tracers, a device that construction workers can wear that beeps when they're too close to someone in a construction site, and tracks workers' proximity to one another.

Robert Constantini is Triax Technologies CEO and is here to discuss. Also joining us is Anjalee Khemlani, our health care reporter. All right, good to see you both here. Let me start with you here, Robert. The proximity tracers, we're showing video of that right now. Where have they been installed to date? Any big names you could share?

ROBERT CONSTANTINI: Yeah, the company has had quite a great reception. Large US construction contractors, like the Gilbane Building companies, Skanska, bioscience companies like Nutrien. So we're on over 100 paid sites, and we have tens of thousands of devices currently out in the field using Proximity Trace to provide social distancing and contact tracing for essential workforces.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Robert, you say paid customers, which are the best kind, but how much is your service or this technology?

ROBERT CONSTANTINI: That's a great question. The devices cost roughly $200, and it provides six months of service. So you are able to get the product out in the field and have the ability to get your workforce up and running very quickly. It's a self-service model. So it's about $200 bucks, and that includes six months, the first six months of service.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Robert, Anjalee here. I'm curious about the need for this technology. It seems like contact tracing in general has been such a struggle for the country, and we're still dealing with surges throughout the country. How much demand is there?

ROBERT CONSTANTINI: There's been a tremendous response to this product. I mean, I can rattle off a few data points. Just our inbound increase in web traffic has skyrocketed after we watch this on April 15. And besides the traction that I just mentioned with the number of paid sites and tens of thousands of tags, we have demand that's in the tens of thousands behind that in terms of backlog. But there are a lot of businesses that are realizing this is not going to go away, COVID-19, or whatever the pandemic is. And they need technology to get back to work safely. So they're looking for something to be able to make an informed decision, keep their workers safe, and by extension, keep the families of those workers safe.

So again, it's all about maintaining social distance, minimizing exposure through that. What our product does, is provide a real time audible alert. It constantly collects passive data for close contact interactions when you need to be close in proximity to someone. It's downloaded automatically, so there's not a lot of effort on the workers' part. No location data is collected, so it's very respectful of worker privacy. That was something that was very important to us, so it doesn't collect location. And again, it's a simple device and it's easy to use. So that is what our focus has been on. And I think workers and companies can both embrace that to be able to get back to work safely.

And again, as I mentioned, we have such a broad range of interests. You're showing our video on construction, but there are a number of industries that have gravitated to this. Industrials, manufacturing, I mentioned bioscience. We have people in the entertainment industry that are using this to be able to get back to production, as well as education. I mean, education, getting back to school was something we weren't even thinking about a few months ago, and that has also been surprising and encouraging for us that people are using this technology in such a broad way. So we're pretty excited about it. And we think the demand is tremendous.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: And there hasn't been really too much pushback on the privacy issues. That's been one of the key reasons why other technology has struggled to gain traction, even from some of the largest tech companies in the country.

ROBERT CONSTANTINI: Yes. And I think a lot of that has to do with how they use technology to get at the situation or solve the problem. These are standalone devices, they're easy to where. You can clip them to a hard hat or clip them on your belt. It's a fully functioning system, so all of the close contact interactions that I mentioned for historical contact tracing are downloaded automatically to a cloud dashboard for very simple reporting.

So it's a totally enclosed device. It doesn't require your smartphone. It doesn't require a smartphone app. Other technologies, like GPS or maybe a cell technology-based solution will raise questions about worker privacy. So we've been very careful in all of our product offerings, to respect worker privacy and not collect location data where it's not necessary. So that's been a selling point for us.

BRIAN SOZZI: Robert, let me paint this picture real quickly. Let's say I'm on the job site with a hammer. I'm hammering a nail into a wall, I'm done with the hammer and my friend on the job site, Big Tony, needs the hammer to hammer in his own nail. I give him that hammer. Do I get alerted? Does that get alerted to my boss, saying I'm too close to Big Tony? And is my pay docked? Am I in trouble? What's the end result here?

ROBERT CONSTANTINI: No, the device, it's basically transmitting device to device. So you know the two devices your device and Big Tony's device are recording that you're within let's say, a six foot distance, you're looking at those roughly six foot social distancing lengths. So if you violate that, it can be, now, if you need to work with Big Tony, you can turn the alert off. I mean, there are situations where you have to be in close contact. Certainly on construction sites, with things like a two-man lift, you cannot avoid that. But it doesn't go to your boss and some supervisor to say that you're too close. What it does, is it records that interaction.

Now he can go to a dashboard and see historically that you've been too close to Big Tony. But again, it's not to prevent people from working. It's also not to distract them from their work. A lot of these work sites are dangerous or hazardous to begin with. So you really want to be respectful of the work. But it'll record that interaction for those minutes that you were close to Tony. And if Tony was to come down and be diagnosed with COVID-19, they would know two weeks ago you handed him the hammer. And maybe do some precautionary or mandatory quarantining for you.

And this is where the data is so important and becomes so powerful. If you think about what it cost to shut down a site, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to shut down a construction site for even just a few weeks. And if you know that you can limit the range of exposure to and isolate that range of exposure to a certain number of people, you can make an informed decision on whether or not that site is safe. Because you can be labeled an essential business, but you really need to make sure that the site is safe. It goes up to a dashboard, very simple reporting capability, and that's pretty much how it works. But we don't want to impede work, we just want people to be alerted to the fact that they are in close distances, to correct their behavior or correct their distances, and then move on.