A Halifax company is poised to install technology that could help seniors’ homes protect their staff and residents in the current pandemic, but the work has to wait for the crisis to pass for the installations to begin.

Tenera has developed hardware and software that can assess the positioning of residents and staff, even visitors, in retirement or nursing homes. It’s accurate within six inches, and can produce 86,000 data points per person per day, showing exactly who came in contact with whom and where they met.

With the news breaking Thursday that at least 600 of these homes in Canada have reported Covid-19  cases, the technology could be instrumental in helping staff ensure residents practice social distancing. But CEO Stewart Hardie said in an interview that now is not the time for technicians to enter these homes to install devices, as it would be hard to ensure the technicians were virus-free.

“The whole reason we started this was to give seniors a better quality of life,” said Hardie. “The thought of going in there and hurting a senior . . . well, it’s a pretty big discussion to have. It’s not about money. It’s about saving people’s lives.”

He added that it’s possible that in four to six weeks there could be an easing of restrictions and that may be the time to do a roll out, but he added that is only a guess.

The story of Tenera – the brand name for the company whose corporate name is GeoNavo Inc. – dates back five years to when Hardie began working on a positioning solution for seniors’ homes. Since then, he has partnered with Shannex, the Halifax-based chain of seniors’ homes housing 4,000 beds.

The technology comprises a wearable device (a bracelet, pin-on, or pendant) that can track the wearers’ movements or allow them to contact staff. The device sends readings to a central system, alerting staff to problems and generating data that can improve and customize care for each patient. Hardie says the technology can help address such problems as pressure ulcers or incontinence.

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Shannex became an early adopter, installing the tech in some facilities late last year. Tenera was preparing this month for further installations in the U.S., in facilities in Arkansas, Texas and New Jersey. Obviously, those installations have been postponed.

Hardie said the technology could help seniors’ facilities manage the disease in three ways:

Resident interaction – The data can track how each resident interacts with other residents or staff members. Such data can be invaluable when someone tests positive. “It’s a push of a button and you have real data,” said Hardie.
Geofencing – If someone is in quarantine, Tenera can make sure they stay put and alert staff if they move.
Social distancing – A major problem in nursing homes is that some residents don’t get along, and Tenera can alert staff if two enemies come within a certain distance of each other. Adjusting this feature, the technology can make sure everyone stays two metres from everyone else, and alerts staff if someone breaks social distancing rules.

Hardie said it is currently impossible to tell what’s in store for the company in the next six months. It has 14 employees and could have to expand quickly, and maybe raise investment capital, if a large operator with 100,000 beds or so wants a full installation. But he does believe demand will rise.

“We expect people [nursing home operators] will have to have systems and, if not ours, then something else like ours,” he said. “Right now, people are in reactive stage because of the situation, but once we get over the hump I think people will have to be more proactive. Three months from now, we’ll be very, very busy – that’s my expectation.”