The COVID-19 pandemic has sent the world into a global crisis as economic activities around the world come to a near standstill amidst mounting uncertainty. Growing numbers of infections continue to drive nations globally to close their doors and impose tight restrictions on movements.
COVID-19 has led to a heightened focus on safety and hygiene protocols, resulting in the creation of many new routines. To reduce the spread of the virus, we have seen companies worldwide adopt remote work to reduce in-person interactions whilst others who are not able to carry out safety measures such as temperature taking and contact tracing as well as increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection.
According to world-renowned virus-hunter Peter Piot, “When the COVID-19 vaccine finally comes, it will be no silver bullet to end the pandemic”.
With COVID-19 expected to continue being a problem long term, contactless or low touch is gaining popularity across the world. Contactless refers to doing things without direct contact with others, replacing in-person interactions using technology, such as making contactless payments, shopping online or using self-service kiosks.
To help people feel safe in the wake of the pandemic, brands have also been touting a contactless experience for their consumers. We have seen a rise in services such as contactless payments, contactless delivery, even contactless dining.
Here are some examples of contactless services.
Contactless payment: Consumers can simply tap their cards for payments, allowing them to avoid touching a payment terminal as compared to swiping or inserting your card. In the first quarter of 2020, Mastercard saw a 40% increase in contactless payment as the coronavirus pandemic worsened.
Contactless Delivery: Consumers are able to order food or purchases online and instead of having the item handed to people at their door, purchases are dropped on their doorstep for them to pick-up, removing the need for in-person interaction.
Contactless Dining: Eliminates every physical touchpoint possible while dining out to create a safer dining experience for customers such as contactless menu viewing to contactless payment, minimizing customer contact with anything that someone else might have touched.
In fact, contactless technology has gone a long way since it first started in 1898, where Nikola Tesla invents remote control technology, using radio signals to control a miniature boat at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1997, the first example of contactless payment came in the form of Speedpass where Mobil enabled customers to pay for fuel using a keyfob preloaded with cash.
The adoption of contactless technology is set to be accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis where companies try to address the concerns of a public with heightened germ awareness, investing in technology that will reduce touch points and equip them to take on longer-term shifts in consumer behavior. Multi-featured autonomous mobile robots such as the OTSAW O-R2 that can undertake various tasks such as concierge services, temperature taking and security surveillance have also seen an uptake in demand as companies look to replace in-person interactions using robotic technology.
For aspects of the physical experience that are unable to be free of touch points, cleaning technology will remain a key factor. As restrictions lift, companies have been stepping up to clean and disinfect frequent touch points, increasing demand for services that have hygiene functions. Retail outlets, schools and hospitals have been looking to products that emit UV-C light – a known killer for other multiple types of bacteria and viruses, including the coronavirus.
In fact, OTSAW’s patented UV-C LED, the O-RX has been laboratory tested using high concentrations of live samples of human Coronavirus flown in from the United States to achieve a 99.9% efficacy for disinfection within 5 minutes at a working distance of 2.5 metres. By using disinfection robots such as the OTSAW O-RX robot to disinfect surfaces, it not only reduces the need for cleaners and also helps to protect the frontline cleaning staff by reducing their touch points, it is also much more effective compared to manual cleaning and the spraying of disinfectant solutions.
Moving into the New Normal post-covid, the way people interact will be vastly different. In the age of coronavirus, contactless will be the new buzzword as it takes over to become the norm. Apart from social distancing and disinfection procedures in the reopening stages, brands need to prepare themselves for longer-term shifts in consumer behavior. Along with investing in solutions to create contactless experiences for consumers, they should also look toward contactless technology to protect their staff by eliminating touch points in their operations. As the world is forced to accelerate its transition into a contactless society, autonomous systems will continue to play an important role in remaining resilient in the face of crisis and change.