What is touchless technology? | No-touch visitor management system

Posted by Greetly Digital Receptionist on June 28, 2020
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Executive Summary

  • Touchless technology was designed to compensate for the limitations of normal touch technology and manual processes.
  • Touchless technology has been in consistent development loops since 1982.
  • Types of touchless technology include mobile devices, no touch kiosks and more.
  • touchless technology is used for movement detection, optical pattern recognition, motion pattern interruption, screen pointing, facial recognition  and other biometrics and voice recognition.

Touchless technology is a branch of gesture control technology that focuses on establishing control between computers and users without the need for any form of contact or physical input. Like all forms of gesture control technology, it relies on the interpretation of human movements, gestures and behaviors through algorithms. These are, in turn, transmitted to the computer as valid commands or prompts. While gesture control technology is still relatively unexplored, significant headway has been made in one of its branches - touchless technology. 

Several components need to work together simultaneously to implement touchless technology seamlessly. Like most computer-based systems or function, it requires a unique blend of software and hardware to function perfectly. Motion and gesture devices and tools like depth-aware cameras, stereo cameras, gesture-based controllers, and even basic 2-D cameras are all capable of capturing gestures and gathering data for advanced algorithms to piece together and use. The software aspect entails complex algorithms and artifical intelligence programmed to learn and integrate human gestures and paralanguage communication. Natural language computation and computer vision are fields of studies dedicated to algorithms and better implement the data that can be gathered.

The history of touchless technology

Touchless screen technology was devised to counteract or compensate for the limitations of touch screen technology. In the year 1982, the very first touch screen tablet was invented in the University of Toronto by Nimish Mehta. It was made from a combination of a glass screen and a highly sensitive camera. The camera was layered underneath the glass, and the camera received instructions via touch. Whenever an action is carried out with the screen, the data is compiled and sent to the computer for interpretation. The prototype created in this era laid the foundation for touchscreen and some of the other interesting gesture-based commands popular today. 

Throughout the decade, numerous companies made small strides towards development that laid the groundwork for mass-use of a touch screen computer with impressive multi-touch and gesture-based features. The works of Hewlett Packard through their creation of the HP-150 and the use of infrared rays; the creation of multi-touch technology by Bell Labs under the guidance of Bill Buxton; and Sega’s graphics tablets all laid the foundation for the growth and development that came with the 1990s. 

In the nineties, Apple gave consumers their first glimpse at an impressive screen touch communication system with gesture commands features. The following decade, several small strides were made towards improving the connection of the finger, to light that the typical touch screen produces.  According to Jeff Han, RFID was the step forward for scaling, seamless multi-touch and gesture interaction. It relies on light bouncing off the edges of the piece of glass or plastic used to create your screen.

After the breakthrough in development announced by Han in 2006, advancements were made in the field of gesture controls, gesture interpretation through optical cameras, and other interesting input devices. Not long after, gesture control algorithms and devices were created, and research was done into the field of touchless touchscreen and other user interfaces. Since the early 2000s dozens, thousands of companies have implemented the technology, and improve on it in numerous broad and exciting ways.

Staying healthy using a no-touch payment systemHow can touchless technologies improve your workspace?

No-touch technology will come to most modern companies and offices to power a variety of applications. It will show itself in simple tools and machines like elevators, doors, taps, trashcans, soap dispensers and even toilets. Opportunities to implement touchless technology will also appear in our use of gadgets and tools we are more familiar with like computers, virtual assistants, Bluetooth, and mobile applications.

Touchless technology is no doubt wonderful, and in many ways, revolutionary, but it is not in any way new. Some countries like China, Seoul and Japan have used contactless technology overtly in their social life and workplace since the late 2000s. Most of the new application or use to touchless technology will be by no means new or groundbreaking. It will involve merely altering re-purposing technology already in use.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, the need for touchless technology has never been more immediate in the workplace. When applied on a larger scale to day to day activities such as document transfer, meeting interaction with clientele, it can make all the difference by increasing productivity and mitigating loss.  

Here are some of the more fascinating changes that are projected to take place in the not so distant future;

  • Simple alterations like switching biometric authentication for Bluetooth based authentication via the fingerprint scanner or a unique code will be easier to manage.
  • Doors and elevators could also integrate touchless technology and activate with simple gestures like waving
  • Increased use of virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google, and Cortana to carry out basic office assignments or tasks
  • Investment in more sophisticated virtual systems or services that will improve efficiency by reducing physical activity
  • Investment in more sophisticated virtual assistants capable of carrying out more elaborate tasks
  • Investment in facial identification systems as a means of verification
  • Integration of touchless technology into normal office place gadgets, and tools. For example, lights, elevators, computers, doors, and even company cars.

Shift to mobile devices

In many ways, smartphones and other mobile devices are just as efficient and versatile as our work stations. They might not be able to handle a more demanding task like large scale data processing, but they can still carry out basic functions and office tasks.

Phones, tablets, and personal computers might not provide cutting edge performance, but they will most definitely reduce the risk of infection. Utilizing the already existing hardware and features in most mobile devices to perform mundane office tasks can produce interesting results. 

For example, using laptops for conference calls instead of physical rooms or carrying out office tasks on personal computers will not impact efficiency in any notable way.  Using Bluetooth, and fingerprint scanners in unison with reliable applications can substitute for biometric verification.

Touchless office visitor management systemCase Study: No touch visitor management

How your workplace handles visitors, your visitor management system, is critical. It creates your first impression, has a major impact on workplace productivity and is a major factor in keeping people and intellectual property safe.

Instead of exposing a receptionist or office manager, or requiring that visitors use a shared kiosk, visitor management has gone touchless

Using their own smartphone, guests can check themselves into an office or other appointment. This sign in app will notify the appropriate person when a guest has arrived and can even ask question about the visitors' health, print visitor badges and create a log for contact tracing.

Gesture controlled touchless technology

Gesture controlled touchless technology is a branch of touchless technology that heavily relies on physical gestures, hand gestures to be specific, to initiate control or start-up specific functions. 

A great example are mobile phones and the numerous no-hand gestures they have baked into their software by their manufacturers to make them more efficient. Touchless technology relies on a set of unique methods or features to receive and initiate gesture and recognition based controls. They are;

Movement detection

This type of detection technology records or identifies movement on a three-dimensional scale. It identifies movement or commands by the studying movements and changes and cross-referencing them with pre-existing data. This method relies heavily on advanced sensors.

Optical pattern recognition

This type of technology relies on a solid-state optical matrix and uses it to recognize patterns or movements that coincide with pre-recorded gestures and controls.

Motion pattern interruption

This type of technology utilizes a digital image processor to identify and interpret motion patterns.

Screen pointing

This type of technology relies heavily on the users and their ability to instruct the system by pointing and physically directing the object or feature they are controlling. 

All these popular types of gesture-control technology laid the foundation for all the gadgets and exciting technology we have today. Simple gesture-based appliances like doors, lights and touchless taps rely on gesture technology.

Most of the changes expected to come due to the outbreak of the virus heavily hinge on the computer's ability to sense and interpret basic hand gestures, and voice commands. With the help of gesture technology, small and large scale businesses can be easily revitalized.

Other interesting non-gesture based touchless technology 

At its very core, touchless technology has always been extremely gesture-based. The entire industry relies on users waving their hands to establish some kind of control. Gestures are a large part of touchless technology, but it is not everything the field entails. Touchless technology will not be considered whole if important features like voice recognition, commands, and facial recognition software are not explored. 

Voice recognition and commands

 At some point, every smartphone user must have wondered how Alexa, Siri, and all the other big tech companies manage to recognize commands and voice patterns with very little information. 

Virtual assistants are accessible to basically every company, user or small business. As of 2017, they were shipped out with smart devices available on the google and iOS platform. They can receive user data through a variety of ways, but the simplest and by far the most efficient is the through natural language processing. This allows them to cater to linguistic variation and dialects to a major extent. Of course, they also rely on algorithms that collect massive stores of information and self-improve over time (machine learning and Ai).

Voice verification, on the other hand, uses a complex algorithm to record the various variations in your speech patterns and uses it to construct a basic template or model to run all future data entries through. Voice verification can be tied to a specific phrase or set of phrases, or it can be set to read-only patterns that appear in the user's voice.

Lady using a smartphone for facial recognition

Face recognition software

On a very basic level, a facial recognition system resembles a voice verification system in that it compares data it already has to new entries in the system and searches for a match. In the past facial verification was used by holly wood for plot jumps, and law enforcement to chase down criminals. In recent years, however, they have become a staple security measure ever business or individual can afford. 

With the virus shutting down contact-based biometric security, facial recognition systems could replace or be integrated as a safe no-touch substitute. And be added to other interesting technologies or projects focused on touchless technology.

Conclusion

Touchless technology multi-faceted and offers users, and small and large scale businesses with legitimate and cost-efficient safe alternatives that most companies know exist. With the COVID- 19 virus changing office relations and productivity dynamics, there has never been a more appropriate time to look at practical and safe touchless devices and services.  Touchless technology will no doubt shape the future of business and workplace relations, but that does not mean it will come in the form of revolutionary new tech that has never been seen before. Touchless technology already exists in modern society, and its only limitations is a lack of imagination.

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