The technology of the future is here
The current pandemic has made many people very apprehensive about personal contact in public places. And, as we all know, this has wreaked havoc on several industries that need human traffic to operate. But these industries have been resourceful in their attempts to rebound. And the accelerated mass adoption of contactless technology has been a particularly useful feature in their efforts to reduce consumer concerns of virus transmissions.
This has resulted in several key digital solutions across several industries. But before we go any further…
What is contactless technology?
Contactless technology is often used to refer to contactless smart card technology, which is the basis for contactless payment. You see this, for example, in the growing trend of debit and credit cards that you can tap on a swipe machine to pay, or mobile payment options like Alipay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. This makes for accurate and quicker payments that require minimal touch between buyer and seller.
Contactless payment was already a common trend in many countries well before the pandemic — Apple, Google, and Samsung already began adding digital wallets to their mobile products in 2014 and the use of contactless payments was already above 90% in Australian markets in late 2019 — but COVID sparked an acceleration of its mass adoption in the past year and a half. When businesses reopened after lockdowns, contactless payment became an essential solution to have around for many.
But contactless technology takes other forms as well, such as QR-code menus at restaurants that can be scanned with a smartphone to view and order from the menu, telehealth in healthcare, and touchless passenger experiences at airports.
Let us have a closer look at these last two variations, in particular.
Telehealth in healthcare
What is telehealth? This is a person’s use of computers and mobile devices to access healthcare services remotely and manage their care. These may be technologies they use from home or that their doctor uses to improve or support healthcare services.
If someone has diabetes, for example, telehealth can help through the use of an app to estimate how much insulin he or she needs based on his or her diet and exercise level. Another telehealth option is downloading an app to count carbohydrates on their phone or using their phone to upload food logs, medications, dosing, and blood sugar levels for review by a nurse, who then replies electronically.
Aside from minimizing the chances of virus transmissions, this solution will also make healthcare accessible to people who live in rural or isolated communities, especially once the global availability of high-speed internet has been achieved. It also makes services more readily available or convenient for people with limited mobility, time, or transportation options.
Touchless passenger experience at airports
Contactless technologies have brought about revolutionary solutions for the air transport industry since the onset of the pandemic. While some of these solutions, like e-passports and contactless payments, were already in circulation before COVID, airports and airlines across Asia, Europe, and North America have since implemented other variations of contactless technologies to minimize the spread of viruses and reduce the interaction between passengers and staff.
In the U.S., this has included contactless check-in and security processes, such as apps to reserve an arrival time at a designated TSA screening lane, where passengers then scan their QR access code for entry at a touchless gate. It has also included contactless food & beverage pre-ordering through the use of Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. At Dallas Love Field Airport, for example, travelers are able to enter certain stores with a swipe or tap of their credit card, take the products they are looking for, and then walk out. This reduces both the time spent in-store and the risk of virus contamination.
Another solution has been a pilot launched by Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, which allows passengers to pre-order food and drinks at the airport’s food & beverage outlets after security control. This is done by scanning a QR code from one of the banners or media screens located at and after the airport security check. The QR code allows them to place their order, pay online and choose a time to pick up their order after going through security.
In addition to this, certain airlines have started encouraged passengers to bring their own personal devices on board for in-flight entertainment. Others have implemented technology that pairs personal devices with the airplane’s seat-back IFE (in-flight entertainment) screen by connecting to the Wi-Fi and scanning a QR code displayed on the screen.
And there will continue to be implementations of these technologies well into the foreseeable future. According to a recent report by SITA — Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, a multinational information technology company providing IT and telecommunication services to the air transport industry — 64% of airports are aiming to roll out self-boarding gates that use measurements of biological data and ID documentation by 2023. This report also indicates that airlines will also double investment for this type of self-boarding by that year.
Contactless technology stretches beyond these industries
Other establishments are also adopting contactless technology en masse. A prime example of this is Nestlé’s recent global rollout of its Nespresso Momento coffee machines. These are touchless coffee machines that can be controlled via smartphones and they were created and distributed to give virus-cautious office workers an extra feeling of safety from virus transmissions as they returned to their workplaces.
And in Orlando, Florida, the amusement park Disney World has begun using signage with QR codes throughout the park to encourage guests to use features on the park’s mobile app. Also, in the U.K. traditional supermarkets are improving their technology to apply a grocery shopping experience in which shoppers ‘scan, pay, and go’ without visiting a cash register.
While contactless technology was already becoming a trend many years before the pandemic, there is no denying it has caused its adoption to skyrocket. And it is very likely that this will not be rolled back when everything returns to normal — or at least the closest thing to normal we can imagine. The developments in the air transport industry are a clear indication of that.
Our experiences in travel, amusement parks, healthcare, dining out, and beyond are going to become extremely digitalized much sooner than we expected. So whatever you do, always make sure your smartphone has enough battery charge and data when you step out of the house.