The country is starting to open back up again. State and local governments are loosening their restrictions, slowly allowing most non-essential businesses to open. But just because a portion of the workforce is going back to work, that doesn’t mean we should expect things to go back to what we previously knew as “normal.”

Welcome to Phase 2 

CDC guidelines and most state governments require businesses to screen workers and customers – which usually boils down to taking their temperature and having them fill out a short form – before allowing them to enter. Workers and (sometimes) customers are required to wear masks, as well. These methods aren’t perfect. Anyone can lie on a form, and the absence of a fever doesn’t mean someone isn’t sick. But they’re at least a first step toward discovery.

Konica Minolta has just announced the launch of a comprehensive program to help businesses protect employees as they return to the workplace. The Safe Return to Work Solution combines the company’s ECM, thermal camera, and virtual visitor management technologies to help businesses safely and efficiently screen employees before they enter the building. And while the solution is all 2020, it actually leverages acquisitions and additions Konica Minolta has been making for more than a decade. “As technologists, we looked at our digital transformation journey,” said KM’s Sam Errigo in a virtual press conference (another sign of the times). “[As] you’re making acquisitions, as you’re really building out your transformational strategy, things come together.” And that’s exactly what has happened here.

Upon employee entry into the building, MOBOTIX Thermal TR cameras can screen for an elevated temperature while practicing safe social distancing, and the cameras can also be configured to detect whether the person is wearing a mask. ECM tools allow data from forms, screenings, and HR records to be stored, retrieved, reviewed, and submitted to and from the cloud, making it easy for businesses to submit information to internal and external COVID reporting entities on demand. This technology can also be used for contact tracing, so businesses can track interactions and zero in on potential exposures. These steps are going to be essential moving forward. As KM’s Ron Thompson, Jr., noted, “HR is going to have a totally different role – really managing these employees, bringing them back in, checking for symptoms.” KM’s virtual visitor management solution, ALICE, is also part of the program and notifies workers when a visitor has arrived, and provides two-way communication between the two.

Beyond COVID-19

Let’s take a step back and look at the larger benefits of KM’s physical and cybersecurity investments.

Nearly a decade ago, KM acquired All Covered Inc., a managed IT provider that focused on SMBs. But All Covered doesn’t just manage their customers’ IT — they provide a robust portfolio of IT security services, including antivirus and antimalware solutions, web content protection, DNS filtering, and security awareness training (after all, humans are the biggest security vulnerability at any office). More advanced packages offer advanced threat management and detection and remediation.

MOBOTIX’s cameras, part of a 2016 acquisition, are life imitating art, using technology that once only existed in science fiction novels and movies. Think of how many physical security problems you can solve with a camera that can see the world in ways humans cannot. Forget about taking your employees’ temperature — let’s talk about facial recognition. RFID badges can be cloned. Workers can be tricked into sharing their credentials (there are some VERY clever social engineers out there — no one is immune). But stealing someone’s face? That only happens in the movies. MOBOTIX cameras can be used for all types of authentication purposes, ensuring that only the person with a specific face — something that is very hard to replicate — can gain access to physical and cyberspaces. They can also measure skin surface temperature – “down to a pixel level,” said KM’s Hunter Fort, it can read “the temperature that’s being radiated from the space” – an absolutely essential function for a safe return to work.

Our take

KM has been creative in its acquisitions and R&D. At a time when print volumes are in decline, KM can make up lost revenues with other products from their vast portfolio. It really nails home what we’ve been saying for a while – digital transformation is a relentless beating drum, and portfolio diversification is going to be necessary if you want to stay in this business for the long term. KM discovered this firsthand as COVID-19 took hold. “The demand in our call center shifted from 30% managed IT services and 70% of our core business to 80% for managed IT and 20% of our core,” said Errigo. “So imagine the unbelievable transformation that just occurred for our customers and for our call centers.”

“Thank goodness we had made investments in other areas,” he continued. “Most of our customers are looking for new and innovative ways to conduct business. Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight.”

For KM, whether it’s in the short term with the Return to Work solution, or in the long term with its physical and cybersecurity solutions, the investments made are paying off, not only for them but for their partners as well. Errigo noted that a key to digital transformation is patience – the patience to execute. That patience may be paying off, as the time for digital transformation is now.

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.