All customer-facing businesses have been dealing with COVID-related challenges that have adversely affected their revenue, if not their ability to stay in business altogether. Many of these large and mid-size businesses, as well as small entrepreneurs, need solutions that allow their customers to enter their places of business safely, provide notifications of featured products and/or interact safely with interactive displays without fear of contamination.
Naturally, the economic slowdown has also impacted professional integrators, which it has made it necessary for you and your peers to look for new ways to generate revenue. One way you can consider expanding your existing client relationships and establish new ones, is by taking advantage of the timely need for touchless peripherals.
Touchless peripherals, with sensors that can be triggered by motion or haptics, can easily be added to existing media players to create frictionless interactive experiences for customers, visitors, students, faculty, staff, healthcare workers, patrons and any customer-facing organization such as:
- Auto dealership, banks, residential homes sales, government agencies or any organization that offers customers or constituents the opportunity to explore product options on-site.
- Aquariums, museums and zoos to allow visitors to learn more about exhibits in which they are interested.
- Arcades, escape rooms, laser tag and other public gaming venues that require user involvement as part of the user experience.
Importantly, these products give professional integrators like you an easy way to re-approach existing clients — or secure new ones — with an affordable and reliable touchless remedy that can be installed with simple modification — and generate cash flow for your business immediately.
Options for Making Interactive Screens Safe
A number of businesses have resorted to low-tech solutions to keep touch screens safe either dedicating staff to do nothing but clean interactive screens after each customer use or making hand sanitizer available as part of the display setup. But professional integrators need to let clients know that there are affordable high-tech options that do not depend on placing frontline workers in jeopardy or deploying staff away from other duties.
Haptics: Movement and Gesture
A variety of touchless peripherals are now available that make it possible to easily convert existing touch screens and allow frictionless, touch-free customer interaction. These products have built-in sensors, which detect the presence of people or objects. They contain capacitive proximity sensors that largely use either light (infrared or laser) or sound (i.e., radio wave frequency or ultrasonic) technologies and are triggered by movement or gestures.
- Infrared Sensors — For instance, an infrared (IR) sensor is an electronic device that measures and detects infrared radiation in its surrounding environment. Any object that has a temperature above approximately 5 degrees Kelvin gives off infrared radiation. Active IR sensors act as “proximity” sensors and have two parts: a light-emitting diode (LED) and a receiver. When person approaches the sensor, the infrared light from the LED reflects off the viewer, is detected by the receiver and triggers content to play.
- Radio Frequency Sensors — On the other hand, a radio frequency (RF) sensor (occurring singly or in pairs) operates by defining a sensitive volume and constantly evaluates the values of these parameters to identify and measure movement of people or objects that disrupt the wave patterns within a defined area.
- Ultrasonic Sensors — Ultrasonic sensors use a transducer to send and receive electronic impulses that relay information back to the sensor about a person or object’s proximity. The sensors emanate sound waves at a frequency too high for humans to hear and when the sound is reflected back, the sensors are able to calculate the distance of a person or object based on the time it takes to register the reflected sound.
Sensors are designed for or can be programmed to react to short-range motion such as infrared buttons that sense a finger (e.g., within 3 inches), or broader swaths of three-to-twenty-one feet that sense a viewer approach anywhere within a 110-degree angle. The latter is generally used to trigger content on a digital signage display when a viewer approaches the screen. Certain sensors require no direct line of sight making it possible to hide them from view.
- Voice Recognition — While not yet available as a stand-alone peripheral for digital signage, voice recognition and activation is currently a proprietary component of some software platforms that work with both touch and non-touch screens. This is a touchless audio-enabled solution similar to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri, and for that reason would only be appropriate to operate in locations without intrusive ambient sound.
- Facial Recognition — While technically “touchless,” biometric facial recognition is largely used by ad-based digital signage networks to provide analytics that can help identify and substantiate generally defined demographics of who is viewing the onscreen ads.
- Antimicrobial Applications — This is an aftermarket solution that can be used to treat any glass or ceramic surface and can be added to paint or plastics to be applied. While somewhat cumbersome and labor-intensive there is a supplier that claims their solution is 99.99% effective against harmful bacteria, fungi and antibiotic-resistant superbugs such as MRSA and E. coli.
Applications for Touchless Technologies — Your Opportunity
This is all great to know, but how are these touchless peripherals generally used, and what recommendations should professional integrators make to customers?
Clients who have had to close or restrict operations because their business model (i.e., showroom, lobby, et al.) relies on customers using touch screens are desperate for solutions. They need to act now to stem revenue losses into 2021 and are hoping you will come to them with an affordable, quick fix.
Not only do customers want to hear from you, but there is no steep learning curve. Most vendors who market these products will have an engineer talk you through what is a simple and fairly time-efficient installation.
However, a couple of pointers:
- Consider choosing a vendor that gives you a broad variety of solutions to offer so both you and your clients have options.
- Consider speaking with the vendor’s engineer ahead of time to discuss any product nuances that may not come across on their website; or a heads up on the best “match” to each installation challenge.
This as an opportunity to identify and establish business relationships with clients who will know that they can count on you when they need something. Touchless solutions will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, but the opportunity has never been so hot.
Lisa Schneider is executive vice-president, marketing and sales for Videotel Digital, which is the only manufacturer serving the digital signage industry with a wide variety of innovative touch-less peripherals that work with non-proprietary players in addition to their reliable and affordable industry-grade digital signage media players, interactive media players and directional sound speakers. Schneider joined the company in 2011 as vice-president of sales and is responsible for the company’s strategic partnerships, sales, and marketing direction and commitment to customer service. She can be reached via email at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.videoteldigital.com.