How Will COVID-19 Encourage the Adoption of Contactless Technologies?

As COVID-19 continues to reshape our day-to-day lives, contactless technologies are providing innovative solutions to new challenges, and helping to create a safer world.

Although the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been hailed as the future for years, the sudden focus on health-centric innovations since COVID is set to accelerate the adoption of intelligent technologies across homes, schools, businesses and even public spaces. In fact, amid the global crisis and economic recession, the voice and speech recognition technology market is projected to grow by a staggering $16 billion over the next eight years.

In the COVID era, voice recognition technology is reshaping the way we interact with the world. Launching AI-powered contactless technologies could help you keep up and give your business the competitive edge. 

Can’t Touch This 

The sudden onset of a global pandemic enforced an entirely new way of life as governments around the world tried to stem the rate of infection by implementing stringent social distancing measures. In a matter of weeks, our relationship with public spaces and our interactions with the things around us underwent a radical transformation.  

Crucially, the virus has starkly highlighted our proximity and reliance to both people and things. 

While most user experiences are centered around touch and physical interaction with objects, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is driving us to find contactless alternatives. Whether it’s installing IoT sensors on grocery store shelves to avoid checkout queues or using biometric security systems to replace dirty keys, the ripple effects of COVID-19 is set to change the face of AI-enabled contactless technologies forever. 

Even if the coronavirus is eradicated, the public’s heightened awareness of hygiene and an increased understanding of how viral transmission occurs is likely to boost the demand for contactless technology across all aspects of our lives. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most exciting opportunities for contactless innovations in a post-COVID world. 

Contactless Technologies in Public Spaces 

Repetitive and predictable behaviors in public spaces present the greatest risk to any population throughout a pandemic. Whether it’s pressing buttons at pedestrian crossings or touching door handles in public bathrooms, the predictability of simple day-to-day actions can trigger a somewhat unpredictable knock-on effect as a virus spreads from person to person. 

However, contactless innovations and cutting-edge speech recognition developments provide germ-free solutions that will meet consumers’ needs for hygiene. 

Elevators 

Surprisingly, common touchpoints like elevator buttons are dirtier than toilet seats. In fact, 61% of elevator buttons are home to traces of fecal matter, compared to just 43% of toilet seats. 

While the fundamental design of an elevator hasn’t changed for decades, the improved accuracy and reliability of modern speech recognition technology could provide a simple solution to a revolting reality. 

In 2011, Mitsubishi Electric announced plans to install voice-activated elevator interfaces in Japan to cater to the blind and wheelchair users who struggled to reach traditional buttons. 

Despite the slow uptake of similar systems in other parts of the world, the increased sophistication of modern voice recognition software, combined with the impacts of COVID-19 could prompt the revival of similar technologies. 

Customer Support 

Social distancing restrictions have challenged retailers to rethink the way customers interact with a store. Specifically, coronavirus is set to change the face of in-store customer support as face-to-face engagements pose a direct safety threat to both customers and employees. 

Cutting-edge innovations in natural language processing (NLP) present exciting opportunities for retailers to enhance customer experiences by installing in-store customer care robots and offering tailored shopping advice.  

Some large companies were already experimenting with these technologies pre-COVID. In 2018, Vodafone, for example, was the first global telco to launch an Intelligent Digital Human to interact with customers in stores. Customers are able to ask ‘Kiri’ a range of questions related to customer support, allowing people to enjoy the in-store shopping experience with less of the risk.

With 77% of consumers ranking speed as their #1 customer service priority and bots guaranteeing 99% faster response times than humans, the potential for intelligent customer support technology is enormous. 

Contactless Checkouts 

Imagine walking into a grocery store, picking your favorite products off the shelves and simply walking out the door without queuing at the checkout or fumbling for the correct change. Amazon Go’s visionary reimagination of grocery shopping is set to turn this idea into a working reality. 

The commerce giant has developed an app to communicate with thousands of in-store IoT sensors and computer vision and deep learning technologies to track your movements around a store and eliminate the need for interaction with in-store staff. 

Safer Restaurant Experiences 

Automated speech technology (ASR) and NLP provides the restaurant sector with a host of contactless opportunities. From seamless drive-thru experiences to touch-free ordering functionality to avoid queuing for your order or interacting with waiting staff, contactless technologies will make for a safer and more comfortable dining experience. 

Biometric Voice Recognition in Security Systems 

Security systems are one of the most overlooked factors of virus transmission.  

While fingerprint-activated biometric security systems have helped to remove the need for physical keys, touch-operated solutions are unlikely to make a revival in a post-COVID world.

However, the advanced security capabilities of recent biometric voice recognition innovations could pave the way for a contactless future where communal entry points will provide access to selected individuals by identifying unique elements of their voice. 

Developments in spontaneous speech collection and high-precision listening tests in the automotive industry are helping to enhance the reliability of speech recognition technologies for security applications. 

Internet of Things Applications in the Home 

While public spaces present the most imminent threat to the spread of COVID-19, contactless technologies in the home will also play an important role in educating people about the importance of hygienic practices and building familiarity with the Internet of Things (IoT). 

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular applications of AI-enabled contactless technologies in the home. 

Smart Speakers 

Currently, around 55% of US households own at least one smart speaker. 

As the likes of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Siri continue to weave their way into people’s everyday lives, people’s familiarity with voice-activated technologies will prepare them for the increased number of contactless applications in public spaces. 

Ring by Amazon 

AI-powered doorbells are the first step in a radical new way of mediating our relationships with people from the outside world. Whether it’s using facial recognition technology to screen people before entering your home or using voice-enabled technology to avoid face-to-face interactions with delivery drivers, technologies like Ring by Amazon provide a host of safety benefits. 

Google Nest 

In 2014, Google embarked on an ambitious vision to build highly-connected and intelligent systems around the home that could be controlled through a single app. 

The scope for integrating contactless technologies that can be operated by multiple family members could significantly improve hygiene around the home. 

Building a Safer Tomorrow With Intelligent Technology 

Here at DefinedCrowd, we’re excited by the opportunity to create safer public spaces and hygienic homes through the power of data and artificial intelligence. 

While COVID-19 has presented modern society with a host of new challenges and devastating impacts, we’re committed to finding innovative solutions and adapting to a contactless world. Our vision is to champion the evolution of AI technologies with a quality-focused data platform that combines the best of machine learning and human intelligence. 

We look forward to partnering with you on your AI journey!