Coronavirus business update: Latest news across the North West

Andrew Roberts

Bury-based technology solutions specialist Avoira has launched a range of smart thermal detection camera packages to help businesses and public sector organisations combat the spread of COVID-19.

The artificial intelligence (AI) powered solutions take just one second to detect a person’s skin-surface temperature and can scan not just individuals but groups.

They automatically alert operators when detecting someone with a high temperature, allowing immediate activation of corporate COVID-19 protocols.

The systems are likely to prove of particular use in offices, factories, healthcare facilities, educational establishments and transport hubs.

“Thermal detection will play a crucial role as the nation looks towards exiting lockdown and getting back to business,” said Avoira’s managing director, Andrew Roberts.

“These cameras can be swiftly installed to help support employers’ wider COVID-19 protection protocols at a time when people are being actively encouraged to return to work.”

“They enable non-contact, individual and high-level fever screening which is fast and accurate, reducing the need for riskier and cumbersome manual temperature measurement.”

He added: “Whilst clearly not able to diagnose COVID-19 itself, they can provide a highly effective triage service to trigger further diagnostic and containment procedures.”

His comments echo those made last weekend by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt who called for “Temperature checks, not just at airports, but before you go into an office block or a restaurant”.

Avoira’s range includes fixed, turret and hand-held thermal detection camera systems, together with a walk-through solution of the kind championed by Mr Hunt.


Residential property management specialist urbanbubble and mobile app developer Padoq have developed an interactive app to keep residents connected and engaged while living under COVID-19 lockdown.

Designed to motivate and engage residents of apartments across Manchester managed by urbanbubble, the app provides a ‘cyber community’ tailored to the needs of people in specific residential developments.

Described as a ‘place to connect with your community’, the app gives residents access to a wide range of lifestyle and work-related events and features including a weekly programme of events, with a positive message of: “Together, we have got this. We’re doing our utmost to make those long days and nights easier by creating virtual communities and hosting events.”

The events include a virtual pub quiz, cooking classes, book club, family fun quiz and origami and other events for children.

The app is available to residents living in 5,500 homes across Manchester where urbanbubble acts as block manager, including up to 80% Buy-to-Let (BtL) properties where the firm doesn’t manage lettings, but still engages with occupiers about important building-related matters.

Michael Anderson

It is also available to residents living in Private Rented Sector (PRS) schemes managed by urbanbubble, including LOCAL Blackfriars, Salford, developed by Salboy, and other developments delivered by Capital and Centric and Mulbury.

This move to digitalise residential property management was created for urbanbubble by fellow Manchester-based business, mobile app development platform Padoq.

Michael Howard, founder and managing director of urbanbubble, said: “In these unprecedented and testing times of people adapting to life under lockdown, the need to maintain a sense of being together and communication with your community is of paramount importance.

“We’ve always been big on community building for our residents, and now more than ever, so we built an app with Padoq allowing them to chat with neighbours, join virtual events, view key documents and much more.”

Mike Anderson said: “It’s great seeing communities of residents come to life in the urbanbubble app.

“We built Padoq to give companies the tools to maximise their communities online and have found the property sector a perfect fit for our technology.

“We’re excited to continue to evolve the platform with market leaders like urbanbubble, delivering world class online experiences to their residents.”


Siemens has teamed up with the Cyber Resilience Centre (CRC) for Greater Manchester to help businesses stay secure after surge in COVID-19 related online crime.

The CRC for Greater Manchester is offering a free three-month membership for any business in the region with up to 100 employees.

Membership includes tailored advice, regular news updates and useful tools to help businesses improve their cyber resilience during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The initiative has been launched after Action Fraud reported a 400% increase in COVID-19 related crimes and scams in March, coinciding with the beginning of lockdown.

Cybercriminals are looking to exploit vulnerabilities in businesses’ cyber security during this chaotic time as many companies have fewer members checking online systems and more employees working remotely.

The Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester is a not-for-profit venture between Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Digital, an independent trade organisation for the city region’s digital and tech businesses.

As a partner Siemens, which is headquartered in Manchester, is offering its extensive knowledge around cybersecurity and the industrial threat landscape.

Siemens is offering specialist consultation for business leaders on how they handle the two-fold challenge of safety and security.

This starts with understanding the increased exposure to cyber risks with home-based work through less-reliable internet connections and honest mistakes made in unfamiliar workflows, and establishing which tasks pose unacceptable risks and which can be adapted for remote work.

Paul Hingley

For example, many monitoring tasks can be done remotely and safely with the right procedures, while testing or servicing safety and backup systems remotely cannot.

Siemens has also offered advice on establishing appropriate defences for businesses to reduce the consequences of cyberattacks. This could involve re-engineering or revamping the security architecture by introducing layers of defence such as firewalls or creating a protected secure zone.

Paul Hingley, security services business manager at Siemens, responsible for industrial cyber security, said: “Siemens is happy to be supporting the business community through the Cyber Resilience Centre of Greater Manchester.

“The cyber threat landscape is evolving at a phenomenal pace and has been exacerbated by the impact on industry by COVID-19.

“It means the tools businesses need to defend against attacks and combat also need to evolve. While these circumstances are challenging and worrying, it does present an opportunity for businesses to reassess their cyber security strategy.”

Cybercrime is already estimated to cost the Greater Manchester economy £860m a year. Many businesses struggle financially to cope with the aftermath of breaches and attacks.

Detective Superintendent Neil Jones, from Greater Manchester Police, said: “During this time of crisis, businesses of all sizes are falling victim to online crime. The Cyber Resilience Centre’s offer of support will help many become more resilient against cybercrime.”

To register for membership contact


A North West food producer has joined forces with two charities to support local communities during the coronavirus crisis.

European Freeze Dry, which produces freeze dried ingredients and meals from its factory in Preston, has donated 250kg of freeze dried produce, equivalent to 1,250kg when rehydrated, to FareShare and The Salvation Army to distribute to families struggling to feed their families during the pandemic.

The meals, which include Spaghetti Bolognese and Vegetable Tikka, have been freeze dried, meaning that they are tasty for up to seven years, while still containing the nutrition of the natural meals.

Each meal remains stable at room temperature and simply requires water to rehydrate the product ready to be eaten.

The product was surplus from a previous order and has been diverted from becoming a waste product to create 2,650 meals.

Diana Morris, country manager UK at European Freeze Dry, said: “In addition to honouring our orders, we are also proud to be helping our local community where we can, ensuring that everybody can have access to good quality nutritious food at this time.

“All our products contain natural ingredients purely with the water removed, which means they can be kept in a cupboard for many years and only need rehydrating to become flavoursome and nutritious again.”

European Freeze Dry

FareShare is the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors, made up of 17 independent organisations taking surplus food to almost 11,000 frontline charities and community groups.

Jeff Green, centre manager for Fareshare Lancashire and Cumbria, run by the Recycling Lives Charity, said: “In recent weeks we have been inundated with increased requests to get surplus food to the vulnerable across our regions.

“We have been able to supply that demand through the efforts of our team because food suppliers like EFD and retailers have stepped up to get more food to us. We are incredibly grateful to EFD for their donation.”

Captain Dominic Eaton, joint leader of The Salvation Army Preston, said: “Being based at the heart of the Preston community means that we can get essential supplies to those most in need through our food bank and donations from local companies really help us in our work.

“The generous donation from European Freeze Dry will help us provide so many with much-needed food at these unbelievably tough times and help us meet the growing need in a safe way to support the vulnerable in this period of national crisis.”

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