According to Ian Crosby, Zytronic VP of sales and marketing, touchscreens form a major aspect of the way we view and interact with the world, with most of us using them multiple times daily. Banks, fast-food outlets, public transport, shops and many more such services rely on touchscreens for efficient operation, providing us with an easy-to-use and adaptable interface.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues, attention is understandably focused on ways we can minimise the risk of the virus spreading in order to ‘flatten the curve’. Public spaces are undergoing major changes and restrictions in order to help with this effort, with a point of concern for many being the use of public touchscreens on self-service kiosks, ATMs and vending machines, to name a few examples. While touchscreens are vital to our everyday lives and activities, there have recently been concerns over their hygiene and the potential danger they could pose with the Coronavirus threat.
Concerns over hygiene
The potential of publicly used touchscreens to spread harmful bacteria and disease has been well-documented, even prior to the current pandemic. A report several months ago showed that certain self-service screens in fast-food outlets had fecal matter and E. coli present amongst other bacteria. Other studies conducted in U.S. airports have shown that touchscreen self-check-in kiosks contain up to 10 times the number of colony-forming units that are found in the average kitchen sink.
These concerns are justified, and it is clear that more must be done moving forward to rectify these issues. Despite this, touchscreens also have the potential to provide significant benefits in the current Coronavirus situation in containing the virus.
Helping to maintain social distancing
When implemented smartly and with appropriate attention to hygiene and regular cleaning, public touchscreens can reduce the spread of coronavirus significantly through helping to maintain social distancing. Touchscreens can eliminate or greatly reduce the need for face-to-face interaction with customers and help everybody maintain the proper minimum distance. When used in conjunction with regular cleaning, this can prove a much safer alternative to normal customer interaction for many sectors.
A safer alternative to traditional buttons
Touchscreens also have the potential to be a far safer alternative to traditional buttons on machines such as ATMs. Traditional buttons are difficult to clean or disinfect because they provide an uneven surface with small gaps and areas which are harder to reach during cleaning. Touchscreens, on the other hand, provide a flat and even surface, which allows for easy and thorough cleaning. This allows touchscreens to provide a safer replacement to conventional publicly-used machines.
Guidelines for safe implementation
1) Cleaning and disinfection of all public touchscreens must be both regular and thorough, taking place as often as is feasibly possible.
2) Where possible and practical, publicly used machines with less easily cleaned buttons should be replaced with touchscreen alternatives.
3) In cases where fixed function keys are required, touchscreens are available that provide keys on a flat glass surface with no holes or gaps to trap dirt or allow liquid ingress.
4) Touchscreens with machined textures and features such as dimples and grooves should be used for consumers with severe impairments to their vision. With no moving parts, these are more easily cleanable than conventional buttons.
5) Displays should be either flush or edge-to-edge where possible, helping to stop bacteria and viruses from surviving on the outer rim of the display even after cleaning.
6) Certain displays currently on the market can react to the touch of a gloved hand, helping to make for safer interaction and reducing the risk of spreading the Coronavirus.
7) Using specialist hygienic coatings for touchscreens can deter or kill bacteria present on the screen. While these can improve hygiene, they will not have any effect on Coronavirus.
Establishing a safer future for touchscreens
This current pandemic is showing us now more than ever that proper hygiene safety is paramount. We now have the opportunity to make changes to the ways we handle hygiene in our daily lives in order to begin a safer future moving forward. This includes the ways we implement public touchscreens, which provide the opportunity to help stop or slow the spread of viruses when used carefully and with proper planning. We must do all we can to make sure these devices are not only safe for use but are used to their fullest potential to help fight the current pandemic and any such future situations.
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