Making the Workplace Safer Through Hygienic Interfaces

Germs can be found almost everywhere; in the air, on clothes, and on the surfaces that we interact with on a daily basis. In healthcare settings, where infection prevention is critical, there is an increasing demand for touchless technologies and products that can reduce germ transmission and monitor cleaning events. In the United States alone, health-related work losses cost US employers more than USD $260 billion each year.

The total economic cost of the common cold attributed to missed workdays in the United States is calculated at USD $20 billion annually. It is estimated that the touchless sensing market will be worth USD $15.3 billion in 2025, driven by the demand for contact-free sensing, hand hygiene issues, and government programs. Touchless smart surface technologies have the potential to transform healthcare and the workplace, and provide a cleaner future for medical practitioners, patients and employees.

Disease transmission has always been a key concern in the healthcare sector where proper hand hygiene and germ prevention is a daily requirement. The World Health Organization (WHO) places a heavy focus on the importance of hand hygiene to manage the infection and transmission of pathogens within hospitals. Keeping frequently touched surfaces free of pathogens is an important part of infection prevention and patient safety. However, the benefits of smart hygienic technologies and their uses beyond healthcare have never been as obvious as they are today with infection prevention and contamination at the forefront of every business. Now more than ever, it’s clear how essential smart hygienic surfaces such as touchless light switches, elevator buttons, keypads, occupancy sensors and other interfaces are to creating safe and healthy environments.

Bad hand hygiene is known to be one of the major causes of germ transmission. A contaminated surface can easily spread unseen germs and bacteria when touched. Smart surfaces which reduce the risk of harmful pathogens spreading through touch-shared surfaces can decrease infection and create safer environments. Touchless fixtures such as automated taps, hand dryers, soap and towel dispensers have been a great improvement to hand hygiene in the restroom, significantly reducing opportunities for cross-contamination in washroom spaces. However, there are many shared surfaces where smart surface technologies have yet to make a significant impact.

Dynamically functional surfaces can make our environments safer

There are many different types of smart hygienic solutions, such as surfaces which monitor cleaning and disinfection, technologies that enable touchless use, or materials that are easy to clean or have antimicrobial and self-cleaning properties. These smart surface solutions can be integrated or retrofitted into existing spaces and buildings to reduce cross-contamination and transmission. Technologies such as proximity sensors integrated into building fixtures enable hygienic control without the need of pressing buttons or touching surfaces.

Bare Conductive’s smart surface technology makes it possible to transform any surface into a hygienic smart surface. With over a dozen functionalities available, our hygienic interfaces can transform traditional surfaces into smart ones, helping tackle infection and transmission. Our technology stack extends from the surface to the cloud, delivering high-quality data, so that cleaning events can be monitored and reported back to building management systems. This smart surface technology provides a reliable, cost-effective solution for integrating hygienic surfaces into any office building, but more critically, into hospitals, medical clinics, hospices and nursing centers, where infection control is imperative.

Our technology can reduce transmission in buildings and healthcare settings in three ways:

  1. Through touch-less interfaces for keypads, controls, or light switches in furniture or walls
  2. Through the use of hygienic materials to design surfaces which are easily cleaned and disinfected
  3. Through the monitoring of occupancy and cleaning events, and reporting real-time data.

Integrating smart touchless solutions to frequently touched surfaces goes beyond workplace hygiene to create more intelligent and healthy spaces. It can also bring the following benefits:

  1. Health benefits – Reducing contamination to improve staff and patient’s well-being
  2. Energy savings – Automating controls reduce energy waste and cost
  3. Productivity – Reducing sick leave through a healthier workforce
  4. Aesthetics – Integrating discretely into the space through seamless designs

Key Application Areas

Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) place a heavy focus on the importance of hand hygiene to manage the transmission of pathogens. However, studies measuring hand hygiene adherence in healthcare settings found that overall adherence for healthcare workers was as low as 38.7%. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), suggests the best practice measure for preventing the spread of germs is through regular cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces, followed by disinfection.

At Bare Conductive we currently offer several solutions for reducing the spread of germs in workplaces and healthcare settings.

1. Touchless Light Switches

Research has demonstrated that light switches are one of the places where people are at most risk of microbe infection due to frequent contact and infrequent cleaning. Our hygienic touchless light switch addresses this problem through a hygienic design which allows for touchless interaction to control multiple room light modes in one easily retrofittable solution. A touchless sensing interface reduces risk of transmission, while a smooth seamless surface made using hygienic materials makes it easy to clean, allowing for quick disinfection and little place for germs to hide. Finally, with an option to connect and send data to the building management system, cleaning events can be monitored to ensure regular compliance.

2. Touchless Elevator Buttons

Elevator buttons have been identified by the CDC as one of the key areas for germ transmission. Using touchless sensors, our elevator button solution allows for retrofitting existing elevator panels with a seamless surface that can be easily cleaned and activated without direct contact. Just like the light switch, it remote cleaning monitoring ensures hygiene compliance. 

3. Occupancy Monitoring

The CDC’s guidance advises that keeping a minimum 6 ft space between people is one of the best ways to avoid exposure and transmission to COVID-19. As businesses and companies reorganize their workplaces to limit close contact between people and ensure a safe and healthy work environment, monitoring space use and occupancy is more important than ever.

Bare Conductive’s range of ultra-low-cost impedance sensing ‘stickers’ provide high-quality occupancy sensor data, can be concealed behind other materials and connect to any electrical system. Designed to track falls and the position of interior pedestrian traffic, they are uniquely suited to monitoring room occupancy and location. With the increased focus on social distancing and room density, these discreet sensors offer the ability to confirm the number of people in a room, and whether social distancing measures are being adhered to. Developed using conductive inks, these sensors can be applied to any surface quickly and can detect interaction up to 20cm from the surface. Low-cost, and easily retrofitted under existing flooring, or included at point of manufacture, floor occupancy sensors offer wide-area coverage, as well as machine learning to enable novel insights, making them ideal for healthcare, security and retail applications.

Building a healthier future with smart hygienic surfaces

The threat of pathogens in our environments and on the surfaces we touch is now well-understood, and unfortunately, it threatens to change our way of life dramatically.  But solutions do exist. Our dynamically functional surfaces will help to create a healthier world by reducing the chances of infection transmission through touchless interfaces, occupancy tracking, and cleaning monitoring integrated across surfaces. Like many companies, Bare Conductive believes that we shouldn’t just aim to achieve a ‘new normal,’ but a ‘better normal’ where the places that we live, work, and travel are inherently safer, more comfortable, and more convenient.