KITCHENER, Ont. — Researchers at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ont., are building a mobile software app that will help critical supply chain workers maintain physical distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The prototype is being developed by researchers at the college’s SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre in collaboration with Kitchener-based Conestoga Cold Storage (CCS).
Each day, hundreds of truck drivers, now deemed essential workers, move between the company’s facilities, hauling frozen food and other goods across the country. The new software application will allow drivers to remain in their trucks and avoid face-to-face contact when arriving at a CCS facility.
“Working in collaboration with CCS programmers, we have built an application that uses the concept of geofencing to monitor truck drivers as they approach CCS facilities,” said principal investigator Russell Foubert.
“By using GPS or cellular data, the system can track drivers to understand when their trucks are within the appropriate range, then issue door assignments to drivers through a mobile check-in process, eliminating the need for them to enter the building.”
Student researchers Taylor Beck and Travis Roy from Conestoga’s Software Engineering Technology program have been working on the project since January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic reached North America; however, there’s a new sense of urgency to deliver the prototype.
“Our cold storage facilities provide a critical service to food manufacturers across the country. The current situation has highlighted the importance of keeping Canada’s food supply chain up and running so deliveries to grocery stores can continue uninterrupted,” said Gavin Sargeant, vice-president of CCS.
“If we can eliminate the need for truck drivers to park in our yards and enter our offices to do paperwork, we can reduce the risk to workers while also making our operations more efficient.”
CCS hoped to have some of their drivers using the mobile software application by the end of May.
Researchers are also discussing potential opportunities to further enhance the system.
“We’re exploring how this technology could be used to automate more of the process,” explained Foubert.
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