Do you know who used that touchscreen last? It’s a question more people are asking in an age of social distancing guidelines brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Customers who never would have thought twice about interacting with touch-enabled devices are now expressing justifiable concern over their safety. As the pandemic stretches on and seems poised to continue disrupting everyday life, more companies are looking at how touchless technology as a potential solution for getting at least some aspects of life back to normal.
Why the Demand for Touchless Technology has Skyrocketed
The enduring threat of COVID-19 has spurred a variety of investments in touchless technology. Although research and experience seem to indicate that the threat of spread via surface contamination is not as great as originally believed, organizations are still understandably concerned about the potential risks to both customers and employees. Touchless technology presents an attractive alternative to existing systems that would continue to allow a quality user experience without making people worry about being exposed to coronavirus.
The airline industry and high-traffic airports have made significant investments in touchless technology in response to the pandemic. Some of these decisions are an extension of the industry’s ongoing efforts to improve the customer experience for travelers, but the biggest motivation is reassuring people that it’s safe to travel.
The Push Toward Touchless Technology
While touchless technology has yet to be rolled out on a large scale, many industries are hard at work developing innovative touchless solutions for interactive devices.
While touchscreens have become a common feature for many devices, growing concerns about disease transmission have made the technology less appealing than it appeared just a short year ago. The biggest challenge, of course, is keeping the touch surface disinfected, which is actually quite a bit more complicated than simply cleaning it. Part of the problem has to do with the touchscreen itself, which can easily be damaged by alcohol-based cleaning products.
One solution to this problem that falls a bit short of completely touchless devices is haptic touch technology. Utilizing 3D ultrasound sensors, haptic touch devices can turn almost any surface into a touchscreen, even wood, plastic, or ceramic. These sensors use sound waves to detect when a finger touches the surface, which can then be corresponded to a specific function. Since haptic touch sensors can turn any surface into a touchscreen, the technology could be used to create interfaces that are incredibly easy to keep clean and disinfected.
While haptic touch may redefine the nature of touchscreens, predictive touch technology represents a step toward truly touchless interaction. Thanks to sophisticated sensors backed by artificial intelligence, these screens are designed to predict user behavior, tracking movements to identify the user’s intended target and then selecting it before the finger actually makes contact with the screen. More sophisticated versions of this hardware can incorporate additional information, such as eye-gaze tracking, to better predict what the user is trying to do.
Taken to its logical conclusion, this technology could do away with screens entirely. The user interface could be displayed with a hologram, allowing users to avoid even the possibility of coming into contact with a screen. Although it may sound like the stuff of science fiction, such devices may be coming sooner rather than later, especially given the growing demand for touchless technology.
Light Detection and Ranging
Better known as LIDAR, this technology works by using laser lighting to create a virtual map of a surface. Once that map is created, any motion detected in the area can deliver a signal to a device that executes a specific function. The big advantage of this technology is that it’s small, relatively inexpensive, and can integrate with existing devices. A LIDAR sensor can be equipped to an existing touchscreen to turn it into a touchless interface. Users simply “air tap” at the screen from a short distance (within the LIDAR device’s range) to interact with the system without ever having to touch it.
The huge benefit of LIDAR technology is that it can be installed on existing devices. This would allow organizations that have already made substantial investments in touchscreen interfaces to upgrade without having to replace existing equipment. Retail companies would be a clear beneficiary in this regard since they could rapidly scale up their point of sale and inventory hardware to provide safer, touchless interactions.
How Companies are Using Colocation to Help Develop Touchless Technology
Developing and deploying the software behind touchless technology requires a solid, reliable IT infrastructure capable of scaling rapidly and delivering high levels of uptime. The scalability needs come from the processing-intensive machine learning algorithms that power predictive touch platforms. In order to function effectively, these systems need to collect and analyze massive amounts of data. As touchless solutions are delivered on a larger scale, networks need to be able to handle greater workloads to accommodate demand. Colocation data centers give customers the option of either adding servers quickly and easily or providing direct access to scalable cloud computing platforms.
All of that data needs to be readily available as well. The last thing an organization wants is for its touchless systems to go down, especially if they don’t have a viable backup solution. Placing IT assets within a reliable data center ensures that their touchless solutions will remain up and running when they need them most.
Colocation data centers also provide touchless benefits in that they require minimal direct contact from customers. Thanks to intelligent monitoring solutions like vXchnge’s in\site platform, it’s possible for organizations to manage almost every aspect of their colocation deployments without an employee ever having to set foot inside the data center.