Coronavirus update for business: COVIDSafe’s false start, WeWork in trouble, and thermal imaging in the office

WeWork

A WeWork office. Source: Eloise Ambursley/Unsplash.

False start

Last week, more than four million people downloaded the government’s COVIDSafe app. In that time, the tech industry has grappled with the security aspects of the app and discussed the implications for personal privacy, and the Prime Minister has dangled the promise of a trip to the pub as a reward for compliance.

But, the Department of Health has now confirmed that, despite the hype, the tracking app isn’t actually working yet.

“This [the app] has been implemented very quickly,” deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said.

“What we’re doing is making sure that the operations are going to work appropriately and safely, but also [making] sure that the people in the contact-tracing facilities in the states and territories are trained on how to use the app, and how to use it appropriately.”

The system is expected to be fully operational by next week.

We don’t work

WeWork hasn’t been having much luck lately, to put it mildly. Having entered 2020 off the back of a catastrophic IPO attempt and under new leadership after the ousting of its infamous CEO, it’s now trying to keep a co-working business up and running at a time when people are avoiding offices like, um, the plague.

Now it’s laying off workers as part of what it calls “a strategic five-year plan”.

The layoffs are reportedly in various departments and markets, but it is rumoured more than 300 jobs in the tech and development team have been cut.

A person familiar with the matter told Crunchbase the layoff came via a Zoom meeting, after an unexpected invite two hours before.

“It was very sterile … I think we’re still lucky to get severance. WeWork won’t last another six months but that’s my opinion,” they reportedly said.

Atlassian on the up

On the flip side, the unprecedented move to working from home was always going to see some tech and software companies emerge victorious.

After revealing its quarterly results last week, Aussie tech giant Atlassian is reportedly actually expecting to gain market share as a result of the crisis, as more people rely on collaboration tools such as its flagship Jira and Confluence products.

In fact, the tech company has seen revenue surge during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

In a call following the release of Atlassian’s quarterly results on Friday, co-founder and co-chief Mike Cannon-Brookes said the business was “committed to emerging stronger from this storm”.

“In quarter three, our performance was unscathed,” he added.

Big Boss is watching you

As the US starts to ease its lockdown restrictions, some businesses are re-opening their office doors, but using thermal imaging tech to keep an eye — and a thermometer — on their workforce.

One facial recognition startup, Kogniz, has added a heat detection element to its cameras, allowing bosses to be alerted if an employee has a fever. It can also detect how far people stand from one another, helping to enforce social distancing.

And business is booming.

“It’s been like this rolling thunder of people realising that this is one of the few tools that they’re going to have to go back to work,” Kogniz founder Daniel Putterman told Business Insider.

But, is this a huge invasion of privacy in the workplace? Putterman for one says no.

“We’re at a point now where if you want to remain completely anonymous, you can stay at home,” the founder said

“I just don’t believe that your temperature is private information.”

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