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PBS39 News ReportsMASK OR NO?

Bethlehem based tech company Skillion developed software to detect masks

Bethlehem Based Tech Company Using AI for COVID Concerns

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Skillion Tech CEO, Peter Cooper, shows PBS39 company's tech dashboard

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WLVT) - As the Lehigh Valley hits ten thousand total cases of COVID-19, one local company is zeroing in one how to keep people safe.

"Artificial intelligence, which is essentially a computer programmed in a certain way," explains Skillion Tech CEO and Founder, Pete Cooper, "it takes images of someone’s face and runs it through an artificial intelligence program and then gives a result as to whether they are wearing a mask or not wearing a mask."

Working with Bethlehem based Benjamin Franklin Tech Partners, Skillion Tech is reconfiguring its “connected dashboards” for a new purpose; to sense whether or not someone is wearing a mask.

"It’s quite compact so you can imagine it sitting next to a cash register so when you went into say a CVS or a pharmacy, you can have it right next to the cash register," Cooper tells PBS39, "Also when you’re getting onto a bus. Public transport has really suffered because people don’t want to be in contact where people have to be very close together, so this could be right where the ticket machine is with a reminder to wear a mask or readjust their mask."

The company’s technology has been used to help detect if bike riders are wearing their helmets or not. But now, engineers are finding new ways to use AI to assist businesses with virus mitigation compliance and reduce, even eliminate, confrontational events. "The idea is not having employees have to just do that retail work of reminding customers or even preventing that whole interaction in the first place you know," explains the company's Chief Operating Officer, Chris Briggs, "it’s easier to yell at a machine telling you to put on a mask than someone who is telling you."

"Once we got familiar with how to work with AI and we had it working for the helmet, we knew how to go about doing it for masks. And so we essentially took the same approach and retrained it," explains Cooper, "Businesses can demonstrate that they are doing everything they can to keep their customers and staff safe so we not only check if somebody is wearing a mask but are creating data. We’re not tracking people’s identity, we are simply tracking how many people are and are not wearing masks."

The device is currently being put to the test at Lehigh University but engineers are also working on creating another dashboard that could be very useful in a post-pandemic society.

"The connected dashboard also has camera sensors in it and so you can train it on things that need to be cleaned on a regular basis and can actually have an image or a moving series of images demonstrating that this was actually cleaned," Briggs tells PBS39, "You can prove that it was actually cleaned."

'Steri-safe' will record video, still images and other data to prove to customers and business owners that surfaces have been cleaned and sanitized.