The COVID pandemic may have been the catalyst that brought contactless check-in and touchless transactions to the forefront of everyday life, but the technology has been evolving for quite some time. Even before personal health and germ-free living became the most important things in our lives nearly two years ago, many travelers appreciated contactless check-in for time savings, and many doctors’ offices are making heavy use of it as well to allow for less staff exposure to ill individuals. With our mobile society and global interactions, it is nearly impossible to avoid coming into contact with people from all over the world, and interacting with hardware that has already been touched by a diverse range of people can be unsettling, even in the best of circumstances.
Minimizing physical contact between multiple individuals reduces the risk of viral and bacterial transmission, but it is also convenient for the client and helps to ensure that people who interact with such a system feel safe and comfortable, whether they are traveling, visiting a doctor, or staying in a hotel. Given recent events, we can certainly expect to see more widespread use of contactless technology, as well as technological advancements that make it even more efficient.
What exactly is contactless technology?
The mechanics itself can manifest in a variety of ways, the most common being the use of QR codes to generate unique web links that the client can then use to navigate to an online area where they can conduct information transfers that would normally have occurred in person or through interacting with hardware that must be touched and manipulated. Because the majority of the interaction occurs on the individual’s device, such as a smart phone, it is easier to minimize contact between individuals who would otherwise be required to use the same hardware. In essence, contactless technology is any system that allows users to transfer information without the need to manually manipulate hardware other than the devices they already own.
Touchless technology examples
Consider the following scenario: a traveler arrives at a hotel and needs to check into their room. Previously, this could have been a process in which the traveler had constant contact with several people, such as a doorman, a valet, and the concierge, to name a few. However, mobile check-in via smartphone allows a guest to check into a hotel before they arrive, reducing the amount of time spent in face-to-face contact with a desk clerk or other people in a waiting area. Many hotels are also transitioning to keyless entry, which involves the use of an app on a smart phone that allows guests to access rooms after mobile check-in via Bluetooth, removing the need to interact with a person at all upon arrival.
Patients at a health clinic can scan a QR code or use a health application or dedicated website to enter health and insurance information that is normally requested by the front desk clerk when they arrive. By verifying insurance and health information from a mobile device, sometimes from the parking lot, the desk clerk is relieved of the daily burden of interacting with a large number of potentially ill people. Travelers in airports may also use similar mechanics when checking in for flights, allowing them to check-in and even print luggage tags at home, eliminating the need to interact with a desk clerk.
The Advantages of Contactless Check-in
There are numerous advantages to using contactless check in technology, some of which businesses were beginning to recognize prior to the pandemic. Of course, the most obvious advantage of using contactless technology is that employees are less likely to be exposed to disease or other potentially lethal contaminants. On the other hand, some transactions cannot currently be conducted remotely, but moving the operations that can be done remotely to contactless operation means that when staff are required to handle transactions that cannot be done remotely, it may be the only exposure they have to contaminant. The less germs a person, staff, or client is exposed to, the less likely they are to contract a contagion.
Contactless interaction also speeds up the check-in process for visitors. When visitors can enter on their own devices rather than waiting in line for a single point of interaction, the wait time is reduced and the process is more efficient. There is less redundancy and duplication of work among employees, and it allows institutions with multiple points of entry, such as banks, universities, and healthcare facilities, to reduce these points down to one that can be monitored. In addition to all of these advantages, contact tracing is simplified in an automated system that allows for contactless transactions. When a system keeps track of who enters a building at any given time, it makes it easier to determine who else was in the area at the same time if it becomes necessary to contact people about potential exposure. This process also enables data collection that would not be possible or efficient in in-person interactions. Clients can use remote access systems to more easily fill out surveys and forms, as well as provide feedback to staff about the nature of the business or the process.
How to Go About It
Currently, scientific knowledge has advanced to the point where implementing a contactless system is relatively simple. The initial setup may be expensive, but the return on investment in the system is usually quick and measurable. Once a system has been selected and purchased, the organization should take several steps to ensure that transactions run smoothly. To begin, clients and guests should be able to set up any accounts that may be required ahead of time, making sending emails about the new system to all existing clients a requirement. The invitation email should also include what guidelines and data will be required for the client to interact with the system.
Access points to the system should be placed throughout the building, such as tablets or signs with QR codes, or a website link that visitors can navigate to on their smartphones to access the system.
Depending on the nature of the transaction, these codes can be emailed to the client and scanned by a staff member when they arrive. If this is applicable to a hotel check-in, this code can be used not only for check-in but also to direct the client to an application that will enable them to use keyless entry for their rooms.
Of course, protocol should be in place for individuals who do not own a personal device, as there is still a segment of the population that does not use the Internet or smart phones. For these people, there should be someone on staff with a tablet or other mobile device who can interact with them from behind a barrier and enter the information for them. Instead of virtual QR codes, a physical one can be printed on a client badge, and any other interaction, such as handshakes or temperature taking, should be done by waving or using a thermal thermometer.
Technology is evolving
Contactless science had been around for several years before it became popular during the COVID pandemic, but the last two years have seen an increase in the industry due to increased demand. Previously, QR codes and websites, as well as self-service kiosks, were the primary means of contactless check-in, but with the spread of a potentially dangerous illness, fewer people are comfortable using them. However, technology has progressed to include smartphone applications, radio-frequency identification (RFID) or near field communication (NFC) that enable touchless transactions, and biometrics such as face recognition are rapidly gaining traction.
Without a doubt, in the not-too-distant future, security features on such mechanization as voice recognition and other biometrics will be advanced enough to allow these methods to be used as touchless software. The benefits will remain the same, however, in that allowing for secure and safe contactless check-in not only keeps staff and customers safe, but it also allows for better data processing, faster transactions, and less wait time, as well as the peace of mind that technology is allowing for a better situation for all.
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