Touchless Technology and the Office
The concept of creating “phygital” experiences — or the use of technology to bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds in a unique and interactive way for the end-user — is fairly new for managing office space, despite the fact that many of the technologies that can achieve these goals have been around for decades. This, in part, is due to the growing popularity of touchless technology for consumers, and a shift in many industries to match consumer habits by adopting smart technologies to enhance the user experience.
These current-day changes to the office sector have shifted the value equation away from the buildings themselves to the people who occupy them. With the assistance of tenant experience technologies such as HqO, CRE leaders can seize an opportunity to adopt a consumer-first model and embrace the most recent digital disruptions. By blending the physical and digital workplaces, they can also create engaging and memorable experiences that differentiate their portfolios and tune into their most important assets: their tenants.
Keeping up with evolving tenant needs and creating successful, adaptable “phygital” offerings for any portfolio also includes addressing modern-day concerns in the areas of safety, communication, and engagement. The recent heightened focus on building occupant health and safety, alongside a need for “phygital” experiences, has led to a particular interest in touchless experiences for the office. In the next section, we dive into the ins and outs of what it means to integrate touchless technology in any building.
What is Touchless Technology?
According to Proxyclick, the touchless technology definition is as follows: “Touchless technologies can be defined as any device that you can use or operate without needing to touch it. Standard human-machine interfaces in this niche include camera-based gestures, proximity-enabled screens, voice recognition, and eye-tracking tech.”
Such technologies allow computer systems to take instructions from inputs such as facial patterns, voice, user behavior, or even physical movement. These are then interpreted as signals that can take the desired action for the end-user. However, a touchless interface is most effective when it doesn’t stand on its own. Proxyclick continues on to say that “when paired with artificial intelligence, biometric technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud connectivity, touchless technology can become an integrated solution that enhances employee and visitor experience. It not only streamlines attendance and entry by prioritizing vital health and safety precautions but also ensures seamless customer service and enhances the effectiveness of administrative tools.”
Envoy — leaders in visitor management software for the office — recommends five main types of technology for the workplace: gesture recognition, touchless sensing, voice recognition, facial recognition, and personal devices. Let’s break down what this means.
- Gesture Recognition: Gesture recognition is exactly what it sounds like, and is the most common form of touchless technology. An example of this would be waving your hand in front of touchless sensor technology to trigger an action, such as opening a door or a turnstile.
- Touchless Sensing: Touchless sensing is similar to gesture recognition, but relies on general movement instead of a specific gesture. This is a commonplace technology that we can see everywhere we go — predominantly through the automatic doors we see in retail buildings, hotels, and other modernized buildings.
- Voice Recognition: Technologies that rely on voice recognition active when spoken to. The most commercialized and popular examples of this kind of technology are Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or even the virtual assistants in modern vehicles.
- Facial Recognition: Facial recognition is perhaps easier for building occupants than voice recognition, since it doesn’t require a conscious effort from the end-user. By pinpointing the unique attributes of an individual’s face, a person can grant themselves access to phones, payment kiosks, and even specific rooms if they’re equipped with the right technologies.
- Personal Devices: The fifth touchless technology on this list is more of the enabler of many of the other technologies. To truly ensure that building occupants don’t have to touch any of the above sensors or features that may trigger an action, smartphones and other mobile devices can now be leveraged to easily journey throughout a building.
“Touchless technology implies that you don’t have to touch any public surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons, or shared screens,” explains Bernhard Mehl, CEO of access control company Kisi. “This is where your smartphone and other personal devices come in. It doesn’t take a huge behavioral change because we’re all on our personal devices all day long anyway, so it can even add a layer of convenience.”
The Growth of the Touchless Industry
CRE leaders around the world are taking a particular interest in touchless technology for offices, as the touchless industry itself experiences a massive boom. At the very beginning of the pandemic, the touchless sensing market was projected to reach USD 15.3 billion in 2025, from USD 6.8 billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 17.4%. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is still prominent in several countries across the globe, the need for touchless technology is more important than ever. Taking many nods from touchless technology in healthcare and other industries, touchless technology for offices is starting to gain traction due to its ability to address modern safety and hygienic needs.
Capgemini, a global leader in consulting, technology services, and digital transformation, recently conducted a survey of more than 4,800 customers and over 950 executives from 12 major economies to understand how organizations were readjusting their business models after the COVID-19 pandemic. They found several interesting things, including the fact that 62% of consumers expect to increase their use of touchless technologies once the pandemic subsides. Additionally, a McKinsey report shows that vendors who adopt the highest degree of touchless technology gain a competitive edge as they pose a lower risk to employees, consumers, and their overall operations — a lesson that can easily be applied to the office sector.
New Tech Companies to Look Out For
There are many new tech companies available in the market for the office, including companies that make touchless products. Several of these companies exist in HqO’s Marketplace of best-in-class technology partners. Below are just a few touchless technologies that you can use in your office through the HqOS operating system:'
- LiveSafe is the leading mobile platform for safety and security risk reporting, emergency communications, and COVID-19 health assessments and mitigation. Whether it’s physical safety and security risks, mental health, sexual harassment and assault, or COVID-19 health risks, the LiveSafe Platform provides all of the tools — including touchless technologies — necessary to keep your people informed and safe.
- Bbot is a smart, mobile ordering solution that seamlessly offers contactless ordering and dining experiences. Operators can create a fully branded, digital menu accessible through QR codes that patrons can scan with their smartphones. Diners can order whatever they want, whenever they want, without ever having to download or sign up for an app.
- Proxy revolutionizes how people access the workplace and opens the door to smarter workplace experiences tailored to each individual. Their line of mobile readers brings mobile access to any door, turnstile, elevator call, garage, gate, and more, even those not currently connected to your access control system.
- Touchland enables healthier environments with a cost-effective, smart, and aesthetically designed hand sanitizer product. Touchland used smart IoT technology monitors to create hygienic, touchless experiences that define how building occupants take care of their health.
As the need for companies that make touchless technology continues to grow, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking into the right technology partners for your office now — giving yourself time to test solutions and define what is right for your office portfolio.
A Touchless Technology-Enabled Future
The touchless technology future is indubitably bright — as touchless technologies also contribute to growing smart buildings trends for the office. Ultimately, owners and property teams want to create environments where people feel comfortable and excited to work. In order to accomplish this, the workplace needs to become as dynamic and adaptable as modern tenants’ needs. This indicates that not only does a building need to be smart to make the end-user journey as easy and seamless as possible, but it also needs to improve upon today’s health and safety regulations to ease modern concerns.
Here are just a few ideas — which touchless technology companies can contribute to — that landlords can adopt to ensure their assets are following the right smart building application:
- Implement mobile access technologies and touchless sensors to ensure that the end-user journey is quick, easy, and frictionless.
- Install lighting and temperature control features that can adapt to your tenants’ needs throughout the day.
- Increase your building’s cleaning and sanitation protocols.
- Partner with local retailers to provide easy access to healthy food options for your tenants.
- Leverage technology partners to offer both virtual and in-person fitness and wellness classes.
- Adopt more smart building software solutions and digital programming initiatives to foster a vibrant, tech-enabled workplace culture.
The more we engage with this new era of building innovation and the touchless sensing market, the more we can create the full, well-rounded experiences that generate value throughout an office portfolio.
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