CountMe: The Irish app helping businesses open safely

7 Dec 2020301 Views

Image: © borisimple/Stock.adobe.com

With parts of the Irish economy opening once again, CountMe is an app designed to help businesses stay compliant with guidelines and keep customer data safe.

Covid-19 has seen tough restrictions imposed at different stages and levels throughout 2020. Businesses such as restaurants and hairdressers have been forced to close their doors to slow the spread of the virus within the community.

However, many of these businesses have also had the opportunity to reopen and operate under Covid-19 guidelines, which include strict cleaning policies, social distancing measures and logging details for contract tracing.

But while these additional measures are necessary to ensure the safety of both staff and customers, they pose additional challenges for businesses.

‘We won’t allow a new customer enter a location without a warning coming up to say the area has not been cleaned’
– PETER DUNLEA

Peter Dunlea is the managing director of Killarney-based company TB Smart Solutions. He recently launched CountMe, a mobile app designed to help small businesses such as restaurants, hairdressers and beauty salons with tracking cleaning protocols and logging customers’ details for track-and-trace purposes.

“It allows people at the point of entry to take customers’ names and numbers and stores them in accordance with GDPR,” he said. “It then allows you check to see if your locations are clean.”

Dunlea said that when business slowed down for TB Smart Solutions, which operates a pace of play system for golf courses in the US, he and his team looked at their options. With a background in the food and drinks industry, Dunlea said he could only imagine the difficulty small businesses such as restaurants and salons would be having following guidelines around contact tracing.

“What you see at the moment in a lot of places is an extra staff member stands at the front door taking names, numbers, allocated seats, and there’s only one person to do it because nobody is actually quite clear about what the flow is and how it operates.”

How it works

The CountMe app, which can be downloaded onto staff members’ phones or a company device, gives everyone on the team the ability to log details, allocate customers to chairs or tables and log cleaning schedules.

For a restaurant using the CountMe app, when a group arrives for a booking and their details are logged, the server can allocate them to a table number. Staff can then assign themselves to the tables they interact with and other groups will also be in the system too.

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In a hairdresser, the app enables multiple staff members to be allocated to one customer, for example, someone washing their hair, another consulting with them, and a third staff member drying their hair.

Dunlea told Siliconrepublic.com that in one beta test scenario where a positive Covid-19 test was reported, the CountMe app enabled the team to pick up 40pc more possible contacts than the business originally had from their own booking system.

The app’s cleaning log also helps ensure that every area has been cleaned between each customer. “We actually won’t allow a new customer enter a location without a warning coming up to say the area has not been cleaned,” he said.

Just like the contact details, the cleaning of each area is logged by staff themselves. “The logging is one thing from a management point of view, but it’s prompting you that it wasn’t clean that we’re finding more effective,” said Dunlea. “It’s actually bringing it to the forefront every time.”

Storing contact details

Dunlea said the CountMe app enables contact tracing to be easy for businesses but is also a much more secure method than using pen and paper, which he said a lot of businesses are still using.

“Our data is stored on four different servers, so depending on the information you gave us, your first name is in one server, second name is another server, telephone details are on another, and then the schedule of cleaning and locations are the fourth and its stored in a Google platform.”

The information logged can only be accessed by someone that requires it, such as the HSE or if the business owner requests it for Covid-19 purposes. “The beauty about what we do from a GDPR point of view is that the information is deleted after 28 days,” Dunlea said.

He added that this can help businesses remain compliant with both GDPR and HSA regulations, while eliminating “so much paperwork”.

Because the information that is stored for tracing is a one-way system, staff at the restaurant or salon can no longer see customers’ contact details once they leave the premises. “As part of our terms and agreements, we will only actually release that information for the use of contact tracing. There is no other use that we use it for.”

For businesses that are interested in the system, Dunlea said they can log onto CountMe.ie and select the type of business they’re in, whether it’s a restaurant, barber, beauty salon or an office. The system starts at €10 per month for a small business with up to four users.

Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com