COVID-19: Workplace app gets an update to help get you back to the office

Two companies came together to create a better app for helping organizations get employees back to work after the coronavirus.

TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Jonathan Erwin, CEO of Redeapp, and Stacy Griggs, CEO of El Toro, two companies based in Louisville, KY, about their workplace contact tracing app. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation. 

Karen Roby: You guys have partnered here to launch a return-to-work app that goes beyond contact tracing. This is something we’ve been talking and hearing a lot about, and there’s obviously lots of security and privacy concerns. Jonathan, let me start here with you. Just tell us how this app works and really what audience you’re serving.

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Jonathan Erwin: Redeapp is essentially a mobile workforce performance platform. We’ve been around since 2011, researching, developing tools for large organizations in industrial, healthcare, construction, mining, hospitality, and retail. Really what Redeapp is, is a way to engage employees on their mobile devices, and HealthePassport is a way to create both a health safety… . Not just, “Hey, here is your self health declaration for a day,” but “Hey, here is a view of all of your employees across your entire organization, of the current health status of that organization.” But also providing education and awareness to each employee.

We kind of feel like a lot of the COVID-19 apps that are being driven by employers to employees is very one dimensional and what we are really basing a lot of the feature set inside of HealthePassport today is based on using technology, but also using really strong communication and educational and daily awareness of what’s changed in the business for those employees.

Karen Roby: One of the things of course is as I mentioned there at the top, Stacy, is that when people hear about contact tracing, which is something that many hadn’t even, even though contact tracing has been around for a long time, they really hadn’t thought about it, until COVID-19. So when they feel like they’re being tracked or followed, especially from their employer, that can seem a little daunting. So talk a little bit about the privacy and security concerns and how you address those.

Stacy Griggs: The first thing to remember is 100% of what we’re doing is opt-in. Users, so the employees, are opting in to be able to use this, and if they don’t want to opt-in to use it, then they don’t have to. However, if they opt-in, I believe they’ll be able to return to work sooner and safer. We’ve seen a huge demand from employers who realize that states and governments simply aren’t going to solve this problem. If they want to be able to get their workforces back to work and make sure that those workforces are safe and meet requirements to places like OSHA, they’re going to have to do something to be able to figure out who interacted with whom, and be able to use this data in a very limited fashion.

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That’s the other main component of what we’re doing from a security standpoint is the data we collect is only being collected while you’re at work. And the data is never being shared as far as precise location with your employer. All we’re doing is using it to figure out who you might’ve interacted with only in situations where somebody reports that they have COVID-19 and then that’s verified by the employer.

Karen Roby: Just give me a one-minute overview of what the app actually looks like for the employee, when they open it up, what it looks like to them.

Stacy Griggs: It looks like awesomeness on your screen, but I’ll let Jonathan define that.

Jonathan Erwin: It is awesomeness. So it’s also simplistic. I think what we’ve really tried to provide employees is a very easy way to get involved, engaged quickly. And we’ve tried to position it together so that when they get in the app, it’s a download from the Android or Apple stores, app stores, and they get into Redeapp and Passport is available to agree and to opt in, as Stacy mentioned.

It’s really simplistic to give you color coded ways to maybe skip a line by getting back to work. I have uploaded a self health declaration that might be mandated by that employer that day, and/or I have a test or I’m staying at home today, and I’d like to upload that test to share with my employer. And all of that can then be translated into a red, yellow, or green type of Passport for that worker to go back to work. And then the administrative folks, the employer, will have an opportunity to then see what has happened in that day in real time, and perform contact tracing if needed across that company, if those folks are staying home and take actions to educate other folks or other employees related to the risk.

Karen Roby: When we talk about these employees specifically, this is really going to be focused a lot toward those that are highly mobile, as you mentioned, those that aren’t sitting at a desk, those that might be out in the field. Talk a little bit about that.

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Stacy Griggs: I actually think it’s going to be focused on all employees. One of the things, when we were putting this together… El Toro’s got a long history in mobile location data science, Redeapp had this fantastic app for connecting unconnected workers. And as we started talking about what can we do to apply our mobile data science to help solve COVID-19, we realized we needed an app platform and to get a highly secure, HIPAA-compliant, audited app platform, it would take a year, it would take 12-plus months to build just the basics. Redeapp already had all of that. They had this app that was perfect for helping do contact tracing with COVID-19, if you just add mobile in the data science, and that’s where we came in. It gives us the scenario where the two of us together were able to do something that one of us wouldn’t have been able to do individually.

Karen Roby: Talk a little bit about the tech behind the tech, and you both touched on that a little bit, but expand for our audience, if you could, on that facet.

Jonathan Erwin: Stacy talked a bit about being an expert in mobile data location sciences, and so that’s very powerful. Redeapp is an enterprise mobile platform that is hosted inside of AWS. Now we serve large healthcare entities, large construction corporations, and in Santiago, Chile, in nuclear power plants. And we’re in the Tesla factory with Panasonic in Sparks, Nevada. And so we have had to be, and maintain, both data and security compliance insurances for all of our businesses across all of these industries that are, where they have a lot of disparate, geographically dispersed employees.

The app for us, and as Stacy mentioned, was tremendous because what we, as being a workforce performance platform, we certainly understand how to touch employees and, and provide business results to businesses. And because it is a platform and because it is scalable and because it is portable, when Stacy and El Toro came to us and we decided to collaborate on this idea, we literally were able to turn this around in three and a half weeks, Karen.

The ability to say from the ground up, as Stacy mentioned, we put almost 10 years into building a scalable platform that goes across the world. That’s available in 16 different languages, and being used in healthcare and hurricane preparedness in Florida and for emergency management in lots of different types of industries, but to combine it with a data sciences piece of El Toro was just… . Really, I said this in a recent interview where it’s, we were tailor-made for crisis and together it’s been a great combination.

Stacy Griggs: It’s interesting to me that, when I look at how all this has played out and how quickly it’s played out, most people that are out there pitching contact tracing apps for companies and universities, they have a PowerPoint, they have a press release, they actually don’t have an app. If you go to the app store and try to download their app, they’re working on it. We have an app that you can download and start using today. You know, we’ve got the ability to spin up clients in a matter of days. We took this for El Toro, as soon as it was ready, our staff downloaded it and started using it. And as part of our return-to-work strategy, this is what our staff are using to automate their daily health self-checks to find out if somebody… Fortunately we haven’t had anybody diagnosed with COVID-19, but if we did, we’d be able to figure out who we need to get tested and who we need to self-isolate and, and it’s ready and works today. Unlike just about every other app we’ve seen, which will be potentially ready and works at some point in the future.

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The creators of Redeapp talk with TechRepublic’s Karen Roby about TechRepublic’s Karen Roby spoke with Jonathan Erwin, CEO of Redeapp, and Stacy Griggs, CEO of El Toro, two companies based in Louisville, KY, about their workplace contact tracing app.

Image: Redeapp

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