THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC has shed an unforgiving light on the less-than-sanitary conditions of public touchscreens. Indeed, concerns about infection from high-touch surfaces are likely to linger even after COVID-19 is behind us. One implication for providers of digital signage could mean increased demand for no-touch solutions.
Since March, Craig Keefner, executive director at the Kiosk Manufacturers Association in Westminster, Colo., has seen a considerable uptick in interest in contactless solutions. “Temperature-screening kiosks where you just walk up to it and look into a camera or a thermal sensor that reads your temperature became very popular very quickly,” he says.
Contactless wayfinding in venues such as airports that have already deployed digital signage solutions is another popular solution. “Wayfinding has been the easiest to implement since it just involves software for allowing mobiles to direct the screen,” Keefner says. Other examples on the market include no-touch digital signage that enlists voice command, hand gestures, foot navigation, hover touch enabled by an infrared sensor, facial recognition, and AI. “Hardware and software can be delivered with these technologies next week,” Keefner says.
Much of the immediate interest in no-touch digital signage will likely be related to managing fallout of the coronavirus itself. Self-service kiosks dispensing hand sanitizer and the latest virus-related information are among the applications gaining interest in the market.
Zina L. Hassel, owner of technology consulting firm ZLH Enterprises in New York, sees significant potential among businesses for no-touch digital signage that provides temperature scanning and facial recognition capabilities. As companies reopen offices, such signage can facilitate the safe return of employees, contractors, and customers. “The nice thing about the temperature kiosks is that they can be used as a standalone single-purpose application or they can be connected to a network and configured for multiple purposes,” Hassel says.
Still, no-touch digital signage can increase the complexity of interactions and add cost to implementation, Keefner says. “And many users have a short attention span and naturally opt for the simplest thing, which is to touch the screen,” he adds.
Yet both Keefner and Hassel believe the future is bright for no-touch options. Hassel says once AI and 5G are commonplace, the possibilities are essentially endless. “You can develop different applications depending on whatever database is integrated with the system,” she says. Think biometrics, facial recognition, and conversational AI embedded in digital signage to provide high levels of personalization.
Finally, mobile devices will drive no-touch applications that combine both informational and transactional capabilities. With phones essentially acting as proxies, end users can interact with and manipulate the content of digital signs, conduct transactions, and make payments in a completely contactless manner.