Coronavirus Boosts Touchless Technology Advancements

A world of hands-free tech may be just around the corner.
Fabienne Lang

If there's one thing the coronavirus outbreak has taught us, it's how to greet each other without any physical contact. We've adapted to touchless greetings by waving, bowing, "air" high-fives, or doing a starjump and a hip wiggle, whatever floats your boat. 

Now the world is seriously looking at spurring on touchless technology. As the virus is known to spread through contact, and there is word that it may live up to nine days on surfaces, the need for more touchless tech is urgent. 


Don't touch that

Everything from tapping a store's payment system to flushing a toilet is currently feared as it's still unknown how long the coronavirus lives on surfaces like screens, wood, or metal, among other materials.

As the virus keeps spreading, many companies that make hands-free devices and products are seeing an increase in inquiries and demand. 

Some of these companies, like Proxy, a California-based startup, focus on how to enter a secure building through a mobile phone app instead of using cards or tapping in security details. Now the focus has turned to keeping a hygienic environment without the need for touching anything, rather than just security. 

Proxy's technology allows users to check in to buildings and doctors' offices by using a Bluetooth signal, without touching any screens or even removing their smartphone from their pockets. 

Other companies such as Kohler, the well-established bathroom and kitchen fixtures maker, have seen an influx of inquiries for touchless taps and "intelligent toilets" that don't require any physical touch. The latter opens and closes automatically, as well as flush thanks to a sensor and timer. 

In some parts of the world, touchless products have already been the norm for a while. In countries and territories such as Hong Kong and China, automatic doors and payment methods have been the norm for many years — partly due to the 2003 SARS epidemic when these nations made huge changes precisely for these safety reasons. In comparison, many cities in the U.S. use revolving doors instead of automatic ones, or regular "push and pull" doors. 

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The COVID-19 outbreak will certainly see technology pushed to its limits and even advancing rapidly. There could be some fantastic new inventions coming out, and they need to be happening now.

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