Touchless Technology in the Wake of COVID-19
Do you remember the last time you went out in public and didn’t think about what you touched? Yeah, we’re struggling to remember that time too. But in a world ravaged by COVID-19, we know what solutions look like. It’s what we at Stambol turn to every day. Technology. Or more specifically these days, Touchless Technology. We will need to touch as little as possible in the coming weeks, months, and yes, even years. This revolution is going to change public health permanently, but for the better.
This could be tough to hear, but this crisis is about more than just one virus. Touchless Technology will be here to stay, and it’s just one prong of the solutions we need. The vulnerabilities that gave COVID-19 a foothold range from personal habits to government policies. All of which need to change. Because the science is telling us that future pandemics are coming, and could be more deadly.
If you want your business to be here for the long haul – to survive this crisis and the next – we have lots of actionable ideas below.
And we recommend being proactive now. Because you’ll be scrutinized before you re-open. But equally importantly, because the demand for these technology solutions will be so high that you’ll be getting in a Costco-sized line-up that will only get longer the more you wait.
New Health & Safety Regulations
All industries, B2C and B2B, will be required to make changes before staff and customers can come back. If you interact with employees and/or customers in person, you’ll be making changes. One of the most noticeable (and often easy to implement) upgrades will be to reduce points of contact between human hands and your equipment, surfaces, handles, and especially people.
Restaurants, for example, will need to reduce capacity and remove a large number of tables and chairs. Most dining establishments will want to continue online ordering with contactless payment and delivery. Remember the days of dirty, sticky laminated menus? The future will be AR-enabled screens that are either sanitized after each customer or never touched to begin with. Picture voice-command ordering that transmits requests directly to kitchen and bar staff.
Retail storefronts will be streamlining their spaces too. We’ve talked about AR try-before-you-buy and brick-and-mortar rolling in e-commerce. These options previously considered novelties will now mean the difference between pivoting back to growth or shutting doors permanently.
Public transportation is another high transmission industry that needs big changes to move forward in the COVID-19 world. How can trains and buses accommodate their patrons without handrails and close proximity to others?
Salons, spas, public pools, gyms, recreation centres … the list is long and the transformation process will be complicated. But wherever your business fits on this spectrum, know that there are solutions out there for you.
Create a Touchless Action Plan
Since every industry (and further still each company) is unique we highly recommend creating a customized checklist you can start working through in addition to meeting the regulations set out by your municipality or regional government.
- What surfaces, buttons, and handles are touched in your workplace?
Start at your entrance and work your way through your establishment in the path of an employee. And then as a customer. Whether you know how to remove the contact or not, make a note of it.
- Can your customers use self-serve technology?
The idea of what constitutes good customer service is going to evolve out of necessity. Keep in mind that as the public prioritizes health and safety over personal attention, you may be perceived as inappropriate for having staff needlessly approach people to offer help.
- Do your customers need to visit in person?
Whether you can deliver, ship, or facilitate pick-up, any way you slice it you’ll need an online presence with robust product or service information. Very few businesses will be able to survive with a website that says come see our selection in person.
- Do your employees need to work on-site?
Working from home (aka telecommuting or remote work) is something every employer will need to adopt and continue to support. Issues of trust, supervision, and collaboration must be addressed because governments will require it, and employees will demand it.
- What can you automate quickly and what will take time?
From touch-screen food ordering to self-checkouts, you’ve seen this technology in use for several years now. Implementing these changes for your own business could just be a matter of finding a contractor. But changes to the way you operate, systemic changes – now that takes resourcefulness and time.
- Can your services be carried out using gloves, shields, or masks?
We will soon see hairdressers working behind masks or welding-style plexiglass shields. Massage therapists and aestheticians will be using gloves. Needless to say, this is not desirable to the consumers of today. Will we see robots doing this work in the future instead? The prospect has gone from possible to likely.
- What forms of payment do you accept and how?
Cash-only businesses have dwindled now that devices like Square are accessible to literally anyone. And likewise, anyone with a bank account and an email address can send and receive money digitally. Telling your customers that you only accept one form of payment and asking them to touch something as dirty as money has become frowned upon and this will only become more entrenched in the societies of the future.
And regardless of what you do or make, if you have an office or storefront, you need to maintain a bathroom. Previously, any bathroom used by only a few people, not accessed by the public, would be easy to neglect, cleaned on a rotating schedule, and possibly not every day.
Top 5 Touchless Technology Solutions
Like the sensor-heavy bathrooms above, we already have so many amazing devices and systems that can reduce both hands-on and in-person contacts. It’s worth looking at what your business can implement immediately to kick-start your sanitation transformation.
- Motion-activated lights and doors
Every switch and handle on your property is a liability and can easily be replaced. And when you calculate the cost, be sure to factor in what you’re going to spend on disinfectant wipes and staff labour as an alternative.
- Voice command smart screens
Everyone with a smartphone has had a crash course in verbal searches and voice-activated texts or calls. Once we enter a world where nobody wants to touch a screen after the customer before them, voice commands are going to seem a lot less awkward.
- Fob keys and contactless locks
A fob or key card be used without contact and comes with the added benefit of customized access permissions built right in.
- Infrared scanning and heat sensors
Boarding anything from an elevator to an airplane has become fraught with worry about the health of others. Being able to detect fevers quickly and effectively will alleviate some of this problematic anxiety.
- Self-cleaning spaces
Public restrooms that self-seal and spray down or illuminate with UV will be proliferated throughout urban areas. We’re going to see other changes like restaurant counters that automatically spray sanitizer and squeegee themselves dry with robotic arms.
Sanitation Transformation Over Time
Once you’ve implemented all the proven Touchless Technology you’re already familiar with, it will be time to turn your attention to new solutions. We won’t lull you into a dream of making upgrades in a set-it-and-forget-it fashion that allows you to return to business as usual.
The shift to Touchless Technology is going to be an evolving process. One that dovetails with policies and vaccines. And as such, we’re going to face a lot of pushback. Some of these sanitation requirements will be perceived the way all new technology is, as a dystopian conspiracy by a vocal few.
But we want you to stay focused on examples that keep the magic in new technology. Like Ideum’s contactless exhibits for children. Be a Bug is a great example of how body tracking activities can engage the mind. They’re also laying the foundation for single-user experiences that keep users engaged by something other than physical contact.
Stambol’s Touchless Technology
Our team has been working with motion tracking since 2016. We have experience developing applications for interactive media and kiosks that track body, hand, and face movement.
These products can be used for entertainment like high energy sports and adventure games or dance and karaoke simulations. Interactive motion tracking can also enhance sales presentations and product demonstrations. And our solutions are not one-size-fits-all. We can achieve motion tracking with hardware as simple as a webcam or as advanced as an Azure Kinect camera.
When we first started working with Touchless Technology, we never imagined how and why it might boom in the future. But that day is here. We know it’s both exciting and weird to start thinking about how to use contactless and motion tracking products in new ways.
But won’t it also feel amazing to know you’re shielding your business from future uncertainty?
Are you ready to arm your business against the next major crisis?
Trustworthy Transformation Experts
One of the strongest barriers to retaining a new technology partner right now is trust. When your budget can’t afford to do-overs, but you need to act quickly or risk fizzling out, it’s decision time. So, take a look at our portfolio and read our testimonials to see how we’ve helped businesses like yours, and many more.
Right here and now, we are all making history, rebuilding the world. And it will be stronger than before. It’s scary and difficult. But you don’t have to do it alone. Ask a Stambol tech expert how Touchless Technology can bring your business back up to speed. And find out if you can make other changes that better position you to take on the next challenge.
Feature Image Credit: BullRun / Adobe Stock