• PwC’s contact-tracing app aims to help its employees safely return to work during the pandemic

    With phases of relaxing COVID-19 restrictions progressing across the DMV region, it’s a time when companies of all sizes are beginning to think about how they will get back to work.

    In hundreds of conversations with executives at big firms, Rob Mesirow, the D.C.-based partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) Connected Solutions/IoT practice, has found a common topic: “the overwhelming need for these contingencies that will provide comfort to workforces to return to the work environment,” he said. “It could not be more top of mind.”

    It’s a problem set crying out for new tools that apply data-centered approaches and can scale quickly across big workforces. In other words, it sounds like an area where tech might play a role. Along with visibility into employees’ current health status, stopping a contagious virus requires tools to identify the people who infected individuals came in contact with, and determine where it might’ve spread.

    We’ve all become acquainted with this term known as contact tracing in the last couple of months, as it has been identified as a crucial public health tool. For use inside businesses, professional services company PwC developed a tool that applies technology to the highly manual and hours-long process of calling people, interviewing them, getting a list of their contacts, then calling more people.

    The company, which has local offices in McLean and Arlington, Virginia, was able to take an indoor geolocation platform and “lift and shift” the technology to apply to contact tracing, said Mesirow. Via an app, it allows employers to identify who from a workplace might’ve come into contact with someone infected. When someone self-reports having COVID-19, the system provides a list to employers of people who potentially came into proximity with the infected person within 30 seconds, with each sorted into a proximity ranking.