Touchless technology – the solution to post-pandemic interactions?

There is an urgent need for touchless technology as we enter a new age of minimal contact.
11 June 2020

A growing need for touchless technology is evident. Source: Shutterstock

  • Touchless technology is a solution to a world of minimized contact
  • The adoption of voice-based technology has leaped due to the pandemic
  • Motion sensor technologies hold a promising role in a post-pandemic world

The current events faced globally have led everyone to think twice about touching a door handle or even banknotes and coins. This leads to a new form of behavior and habits that will shape the way people interact with each other and utilize public services. 

In other words, contactless and touchless are the winning words that will set people at ease, and touchless technology is set to rise in popularity. 

Prior to the global coronavirus outbreak, touchless technology has been taking the form of minimal contact gadgets and systems such as voice-activated and sensor technologies.

For instance, Walmart’s voice order technology enables shoppers to add items to their online grocery cards with the command of their voice. The retail giant has partnered with Apple to expand its service’s reach by making Walmart Voice Order available on Siri. 

Taking it to the next level, AI capabilities are added into the service as well. The more customers engage and use the voice-based technology, the better the service will get. As an example, when a user asks Siri to add ‘orange juice’ into the cart, AI will acquire the specific brand and type of orange juice purchased based on shopping history. By doing so, the technology becomes more familiar with the shopper’s preference. 

Last October, voice-based technology found a new role in recruitment as McDonald’s launched a voice-initiated job application procedure. The feature is available on Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant and helps the fast-food chain giant in hiring.  

The myriad use cases of voice-technology have clearly evolved from the mere purpose of searching for information. Instead, users can run errands and complete tasks using voice-based technology. This is clearly the case as billions have been self-isolating at home amid a global pandemic. 

A new survey revealed users are engaging and using voice-based home assistants more than ever and for a suite of purposes, such as “to entertain them; to supply them; to support them; to keep them fit and to act as a window to the wider world.”

The findings are based on a survey by Voxyl Digital, which also found that 40% of respondents indicated they would continue to use their voice assistant and possibly even more post-pandemic. 

Alongside voice-activated technologies, motion sensor technology will follow a likely rising trend in adoption as well. 

For instance, automatic doors and switches are the norms for countries such as Hong Kong and China, which were once hit by the 2003 SARS epidemic. As opposed to in the US, whereby revolving doors and push and pull door handles are more common. 

Meanwhile, Singapore’s deployment of smart sensors and the internet of things (IoT) enables apartment lights to be automatically switched on or off to conserve energy. These well-assimilated technologies form a safer environment and could help countries in lifting lockdown measures and the imposition of social distancing measures as a new normal. 

In a similar vein, dubbed as the smartest building in the world by Bloomberg, the Edge makes a prime example in how future workplaces may model after. 

The office space wired with technologies to deliver hyper-personalized office experience houses a list of solutions for the post-pandemic workplace.

The Edge is able to deliver the ultimate personalized work experience due to data from smartphone apps that cater to an employee’s needs. The light and temperature of workspaces are adjusted exactly to an employee’s individual taste and continuously monitored by the app. Hence, minimizing the need for employees to touch or adjust light and temperature switches. 

The app also enables employees to locate colleagues. This feature can potentially be developed to help with social distancing practices such as alarming employees of crowded spots in the co-working space. 

Technologies powered by gestures and motions, as seen in the video below, could become more commonplace in businesses and society. 

The motion-sensing devices, originally used in gaming, were employed by museums and design firms for exhibits. While touchless interfaces are taking form, this kind of technology will gain a prominent role as global markets are recovering from the pandemic and looking towards minimizing contact.

Touchless technology will be here to stay and is one of the promising solutions that we envision in public and private domains.