Going Touch-Free with Embedded Computers
Posted on August 18, 2020
Not that long ago, touch screens were all the rage. From self-help kiosks to check-out queues, touch screen terminals were deployed in all kinds of scenarios to help out customers.
But thanks to the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, all those touch screens are now a risk factor. Viral loads like to accumulate on glass or plastic surfaces, making a public touch screen a disaster in waiting.
The same goes for keypads and other signaling devices. The only exception are devices that use voice-based menus, which are not only rare but also unreliable in accuracy.
Posting an employee in each of these kiosks is not an option, as social distancing norms require us to minimize human-to-human contact. Not to mention the costs of such an endeavor would make it unviable.
What then is the alternative? Let’s find out.
Wireless solutions are the way forward
If there is one good thing that has been brought about by the proliferation of smartphones, it is that every person now has a computing device in their hands.
So instead of installing publicly accessible terminals that need to be sanitized after every use, a better idea is to leverage wireless technology to deliver content directly to the users’ smartphones.
But that’s what the internet is for, right? Can’t we just create an online application that does the same thing?
Not quite. In scenarios like check-out counters in stores and hotels, there is a need for instant communication without the lag associated with a poor internet connection. Moreover, an online application can be accessed by any location, which is counterproductive for things like dine-in menus where establishing physical presence of the customer is necessary.
Wireless systems, in contrast, are only accessible by devices within a limited range and do not suffer from any ‘connectivity’ issues. This range is adjustable from a few feet to more than a hundred, allowing for it to be used in all kinds of situations, from the expansive layout of a retail store to the more limited queue at a hospital.
The Role of Embedded Computers
Simply putting in place a wireless connection system is not enough. Even though we are not using the internet to facilitate communication, this framework functions in a similar manner. And just like webpages are hosted by ‘servers’ that send and receive data from multiple ‘clients’, these wireless setups need powerful computers to serve users.
Enter embedded computers.
Unlike home PCs which are primarily geared toward fulfilling a variety of casual needs for a single user, embedded computers are built for demanding industrial applications. Commercial web servers are actually racks of fanless systems working in sync, smoothly handling the requests of millions of users in milliseconds.
For a short-range wireless interface, a single high-performance embedded PC is more than adequate.
The best thing is that these computers are compact. Installing a wireless framework in your store does not require an extensive renovation, as the rugged embedded computers can fit in an enclosed space, irrespective of operating conditions.
Furthermore, a network of embedded PCs can help implement other technological solutions as well, from integrating the payment system to utilizing advanced AI algorithms in your commercial and industrial processes.
On the user end, all that is needed is a smartphone. From budget android mobiles to the iPhone, the system supports every OS and hardware and does not even need an internet connection to work.
Better yet, if you already have a customer-facing application, the wireless interface can be seamlessly integrated into the existing app.
To continue to do business in the post COVID era, establishments must be ready to go touchless. With a combination of embedded computers and wireless presence devices, it is possible to put in place a touch-free system of digital interaction that preserves the advantages of a technological solution without incurring the risk of virus transmission.
The tiny size and the low energy requirements of embedded PCs allow them to be deployed in any type of conditions and installed in the most limited of spaces.
Thus, not only stores but even small kiosks can easily implement a wireless framework to phase out touchscreens and help avoid spreading the coronavirus.