Putting Our Funding to Work

Putting Our Funding to Work

Addressing the Future of Infectious Disease Management and Preventative Health by Reimagining the Employee-Employer Relationship

I still remember the day that I was talking to my parents and sister who live in India and Singapore and thinking to myself “It is only a matter of time until the virus shows up in the U.S. and we will be caught unprepared.” Unprepared because, unlike the countries my family lives in, the U.S. isn’t able to put in place the same level or type of restrictions, mandates, curfews, or health and safety requirements that they can enforce in Asia and in Europe. So I prepared for war.

When my co-founders Jikku Venkat, Jason Story, and I started ReturnSafe in June, our vision was to reinvent the employer/employee relationship by creating the best infectious disease management and wellness solution for the workplace. And because our country — and our world —  was faced with one of the most devastating viruses in nearly 100 years, we knew that our first responsibility would be to put on our combat gear and develop a solution that could slow the spread of the Coronavirus and build the best app to prevent the infectious disease from spreading at the workplace. We each felt a deep responsibility to help with the inevitable recovery a disease like this would require. Business continuity was being disrupted and bound to have a lasting impact on the economy and the people that power it. We resolved to build a tool for organizations to manage COVID and its consequences. A solution that would prevent one positive case from upending everyday life by becoming hundreds.

Here is where our journey, and the journey of ReturnSafe, began. We examined historical data, looked at what other countries deployed to successfully slow the spread of COVID, and recognized that the only way that businesses were going to be successful in keeping their communities healthy and safe was to create a way to screen, test, trace and manage COVID – a four-pillared approach that was effective in stemming the spread of viruses like MERS, SARS, and many others. 

Combining our expertise in technology, design, and healthcare, and tapping the decades of experience from teammates like our chief medical officer Dr. Reef Gillum, we built something in six short months, which has taken most companies years to accomplish.

We Are Family
We are extremely proud of and humbled by what we have accomplished. To date, more than 50 companies from every sector and industry, including long-term care, manufacturing, sports and entertainment, financial services, travel, education, and non-profit organizations have selected ReturnSafe as a partner in their plans to reopen their doors. Our relationship with our customers is intimate and collaborative. We have open and honest conversations that inform our product evolution. Every day, we learn something new from our customers and what we learn from one customer helps us better serve the market overall and together, benefits everyone using the platform. At ReturnSafe, we truly think of our customers like family and are thankful for the trust they put in us to enhance the health and safety of their teams. 

Today, as we share the news of a new funding round led by Fifty Years and Active Capital with additional funding from Necessary Ventures, in a year that many of us would prefer to skip, there is still so much to be thankful for. Our investors have been instrumental to our growth and their belief in our vision gets us excited to think even bigger. Speaking with one such investor recently, Fifty Years founder Seth Bannon talked about the intersection of purpose and profit. He believes that together we are building a new type of company. We are creating a new generation of purpose-driven businesses that reinvest profits to drive greater impact.

Reimagining Employee Health
More than 20 years ago, Pixar was an unknown studio launching their first animated movie, “Toy Story”. They then released “A Bug’s Life”, “Finding Nemo”, “The Incredibles” and many, many more, demonstrating that animated movies can be just as entertaining, emotionally moving, and successful as live-action films. 

I believe that this is our Pixar moment. Employee Health has a path to success, and more broadly, will reimagine the relationship between an employer and their employees. With the new funding, we will expand our products to support the evolution of what is going to be needed with COVID, particularly vaccine management. With hope on the horizon and not just one but three COVID vaccines, employers will be faced with a web of ever-changing government regulations and guidelines and will need a way to help manage workplace immunity. More importantly, this funding enables us to go deeper into infectious disease management and preventative health and wellness, COVID being the immediate need, and develop even more impactful solutions for the workplace of the future.  We are not fighting a single battle with COVID but rather preparing for a war that will influence the healthcare system for generations to come. 

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2020 will be a year to remember, from one of the most debated presidential elections in the history of our country to the global devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. While no one could have predicted the human toll and mass destruction the pandemic has had on families and businesses, there have been bright spots of human kindness, compassion, and sympathy. We have all found new ways to communicate and connect with loved ones and we hope that the coming year will bring opportunities to celebrate milestones we have missed and carry forth the sentiment of what has become 2020’s motto for many, “In This Together.”  

GPS vs Bluetooth Technology for Contact Tracing

GPS vs Bluetooth Technology for Contact Tracing

Our objective with this post is to compile an objective analysis of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Bluetooth vs GPS for the purposes of contact tracing and how best to leverage them both for the purposes of contact tracing and social distance alarms.

Definitions

  • Location | GPS: Global Positioning System (GPS) refers to the blended location information provided by Apple and Google mobile OS SDKs that combines GPS, Wifi & Cell Tower, Accelerometer data using Kalman filters, ML to increase accuracy beyond just GPS
  • Direct Proximity Detection | Bluetooth: refers to the use of Bluetooth to detect proximity with other Bluetooth devices running in the background.

Basic Comparison

The question is do we use location history to infer when two people were in close proximity or do we use Bluetooth to actively detect proximity.

GPS vs. Bluetooth for contact tracing

GPS Negatives

Accuracy drops to unusable in subways. Can’t handle indoors and underground scenarios particularly well.

GPS collects exact location information and uses it to perform contact matching.  However, location data is highly sensitive and difficult to secure.  For instance, the use of GPS location data in fitness apps revealed the exact layout of US bases, and location data is so unique that 1000% anonymization is effectively impossible.  Deployment of location-based contact tracing at scale thus poses privacy and security risks if it can’t be completely secured.

GPS Battery Usage

The rate of battery usage is dependent on: accuracy, frequency, and latency. These parameters can be adjusted, but they trade off against one another.

The highest accuracy setting uses GPS and all other signals and inputs available, which significantly drains battery. The balanced accuracy setting uses less power, primarily relies on WIFI and cell signals, and only occasionally uses GPS.

https://developer.android.com/guide/topics/location/battery

Bluetooth Accuracy

Bluetooth based proximity detection “uses received signal strength indicator (RSSI) values to measure the signal strength between phones. Calibrated RSSI values are used to estimate the approximate distance between users during an encounter.” (Source)

Range: Up to 10 Meters

Bluetooth Negatives

iOS sometimes terminates the Bluetooth scanning when the app is running in the background. Does bluetooth need to be enabled during the entire time frame for it to work? (No, just bluetooth app permission enabled)

Foreground vs Background app

Medical Considerations

What % of cases are transmitted through the air vs. surfaces?

COVID-19 can survive on surfaces for potentially days, but if the % of cases that are spread through surfaces is insignificant, then the advantage of GPS+cell to track historical location becomes less relevant. I believe more research needs to be done on what proportion of cases are spread through surfaces.

What is a “safe distance” with respect to airborne transmission?

Maximum plausible distance to get infected so far: within 18ft of an infected person (in a closed air environment)

Passengers in a Wuhan bus got infected from 4.5m (15ft) away, within 30min:

COVID-19 spread through a bus

Aerosols dispersed at least 6ft away are still infectious (Bischoff).

Particles from a sneeze or cough can travel up to 2.5m (8ft) horizontally and up to 6m (20ft) vertically (which can reach air ducts & ventilation systems) (MIT).

This study analyzes the spread of SARS 1 on an aircraft (NEJM) (note for scale: 3 rows = 90 inches).

Request a demo, we would be happy to show you how our app works or click here to learn how it works.

Unemployment Impact of COVID-19

Unemployment Impact of COVID-19

Humanity faces a deadly invisible enemy. A virus that has already claimed over 300,000 lives worldwide with nearly a third of those deaths here in the United States. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, our main techniques to combat this enemy – social distancing and closing places of work are extracting almost as heavy a price with 30 million Americans filing for unemployment. Record numbers rivaling even the great depression.

Two months into this crisis, our governments – state and federal are overworked and overwhelmed. The breadth and scale of this challenge is like nothing that has come before and we’ve never had as deep of a bench to begin with as other countries when it comes to local public health infrastructure. Our governments are doing their best, balancing the needs of hospitals with the needs of the unemployed and essential sectors of the economy. Federalism and other innate strengths, we have as a country have become weaknesses in this crisis.

Technology companies and information workers have overcome adversity and transitioned somewhat to working from home, but that almost seems like a first world problem compared to the economic devastation that manufacturing, transportation and travel companies are facing by having their plants, factories shutdown and planes grounded. Many parts of the economy simply cannot continue to work from home. And if, and when they try to open up too quickly without the right safeguards in place, we see a surge in cases like in meat-packing plants.

The virus is here to stay in our lives for a while. A vaccine is a year away at the soonest and even if we can rush the creation of a vaccine, it will be a while before we can manufacture it at scale, and make it affordable, accessible and before people feel comfortable taking it. Even then, there are likely possibilities that the virus can mutate and that a vaccine does not address all mutations.

That’s a lot of terrible things to hear. Sorry for that! I swear I’m an optimist by nature but this is not the time for denial and wishful thinking. We must face into the darkness that is our reality so that we can do something about it. The silver lining is that crisis tends to force us to act. Americans are a strong and resilient people that have persevered through crisis before and come out stronger.

ReturnSafe is a B-corp, formed with the mission to move fast, save lives and safely reopen the economy. We are the virus threat response partner for American businesses. We will help employers put in place systems and processes to prevent viral outbreaks in the office and keep employees and their families safe. We are assembling a world-class team of doctors, technologists & designers to deliver on this very important mission. Join us in this fight.

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