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CTO TechRadar

Touchless Tools

Technology interactions without physical contact

Touchless Tools

Contents

Touchless Tools provide an opportunity to reduce physical contact with many objects in our daily lives. In addition to the obvious sanitary benefits, Touchless Tools present an opportunity for greener buildings and more accessible building features.

Possible Applications at GSA

At GSA Central Office, there are a few low-cost touchless technologies already in place such as motion sensing sink faucets and automatic doors. Below are possible applications that could be further explored throughout the agency:

FAS

  • GSA Fleet provides thousands of vehicles to various programs which could benefit from the potential data collected as well as practical usage of touchless tools and their sensors. In our research into the auto industry for touchless tools, there are some use cases where GSA may want to consider exploring further and taking advantage of.

PBS

  • Biometrics for various purposes: Biometric technology allows users to perform certain actions with the use of their physiological features such as fingerprints, retina, and face. For example, certain doors within GSA facilities could implement facial recognition technology that will only allow certain individuals to enter based on facial scan results. By combining this technology with automatic doors, a user would no longer have to touch doorknobs or enter door passcodes in order to access restricted areas.
  • RF-IDs on GSA mobile devices to perform certain office actions: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology uses radio waves from RFID enabled devices to perform certain actions. By equipping the workforce with RFID tags that are programmed to conduct certain activities throughout a GSA building, it would allow the user to automate certain tasks without having to touch anything. One example of this could be an RFID that is programmed to open assigned storage lockers. Another example would be an auto check-in feature for anything requiring a sign-in sheet such as the help desk and PIV card appointments.
  • Diverse payment methods via phone: At GSA there are only a few places where purchases take place such as the cafe. By allowing GSA employees to pay wirelessly with their GSA issued mobile phones, the user would no longer need to touch cash, coins, or credit cards, but instead simply place their phones over checkout devices in order to pay for the items they need.
  • Sensors for building automation: There are already sensors in various locations within GSA Central Office to turn off/on lights and open/close blinds, but this technology could be further expanded throughout more locations in the building. In one example, sensors could be placed near elevator doors that would only require the user to wave their hand over a sensor to indicate whether to go up or down.

GSA-IT

  • Voice enabled technology: GSA-IT could program IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as Amazon Alexa or Google Nest devices that would perform certain tasks within the building. One example would be to place Google Nest devices in all conference rooms. Employees would then be able to send voice commands to the device to perform certain tasks such as turning on/off smart bulbs, turn on the TV, or make a phone call. By allowing users to use their voice to conduct certain tasks, the user no longer has to touch the many devices found in conference rooms.

Adoption

Across Academia, Private Industry, and Government at various Federal, State & Local levels there have been many advancements in adopting levels of Touchless Tools beyond existing simple use cases. Major advancements in smart sensors of all types has allowed innovation to take advantage by combining both the physical and technological (hardware/software) to combine to literally take your hands off the wheel/keys/buttons/handles and so on in differing environments. Below are just some of the examples we’ve explored to bring some practical and futuristic/theoretical usage cases to light.

Academia

University / Graduate / Higher Education

  • Vanderbilt University is an example of a Higher Educational Institution that is putting touchless technology to work in their everyday process of Student interaction with all phases of their classes and University life, including for building access and payment. [source]

Pre-K - 12th

  • Touchless Technologies in the classroom at an early age will help normalize as well as develop future creators and innovators. 
  • Eye-tracking among grade schoolers can be helpful for instance, in providing invaluable feedback for teachers to understand how students absorb and retain content. Although this is somewhat theoretical for daily use, its application beyond academia could play out in professional training and other services like trade show seminars where simple data analytics could be applied to evaluating effectiveness of such offerings.  [source] [source]

Industry

Auto

  • Vehicle entry using various touchless technology paired with common physical devices like phones / watches etc. (not traditional Key Fobs). Gestures and/or Facial Recognition (FR) internally and externally are also coming to market. [source]

  • Additionally for entry specifically, Samsung has partnered with Genesis to provide a ‘Digital Key’ which would replace the key-fob with an Android device. [source]

  • Vehicle Safety, anti-theft, and driver condition monitoring via camera & other sensors for commercial fleets. Technology and automotive companies are collaborating to bring these into real life. The next generation of their use goes beyond even having to touch your finger but rather takes gesture recognition and motion sensing like sign language to control settings with a wink or wave. Below is an article with some of theses features mention in various stages of touch/less maturity:

    • From one article:  “LG has been working with Cerence to develop a full stack infotainment system and in-car voice assistant….The Genesis GV60 uses facial recognition for personalization and to allow people to unlock their vehicles without a key or fob.” [source]
  • Remote control - self parking, near-field moving, opening doors/trunk (already present in some autonomous vehicles), integrated with AR, VR, or gestures and facial recognition without the need for hardware; raw hands or a wink. Picture yourself simply staring at your car and winking with the Right eye to open and the Left eye to close a door.

Real Estate / Building Management / Major Sports Venues

  • There are vast possibilities when it comes to buildings and other real estate like warehouses and manufacturing. In our section regarding Current & Possible Applications for GSA PBS we lay out some of the use cases. This is just one example of industry facilities management capabilities regarding touchless tools. [source]
  • Major sports venues and stadiums are using all sorts of touchless sensors and tools to allow use of facilities within them that, well, we never really wanted to touch anyway. Using the example of restrooms, touchless tools have the advantage of significant energy and water conservation. [source]

Retail/Food

  • Beyond use of simple kiosks - focusing on Gestures/Hand motions geared toward fully touchless (signing a CC ticket ‘in the air’ vs keypad)
  • Grocery or household goods for pickup with no human  interaction. Although we see this today with ordering a cart of product delivered directly to your vehicle or home, some major retailers are beginning to offer the ability to enter their physical store and request it touches experience. By making use of all sorts of sensors and cameras throughout, you can simply shop as you normally would and place items in your cart or basket and leave without having to interact with a person or kiosk and no fear of alarms going off. [source]
  • Amazon - using aerodynamic delivery (small items via ‘drones’ warehouse to destination) eliminates the need for multiple parties, such as drivers, to physically handle packages.

Futuristic / Theoretical use of Touchless technologies in Industries

  • Embedded Microchips for beyond hand or eye gestures. While this is definitely an extreme example, it is not that far off and there are some sectors exploring these applicaitons. [source]
  • Business planning across different time zones and locations, including data analysis and strategic planning decision making can be enhanced through Touchless environments. [source]

Government

  • TSA also has prioritized the deployment of specific technology enhancements and solutions, and has explored other solutions to accelerate progress toward a lower touch screening experience. Solutions either deployed or explored for potential use include:

    • The use of ultraviolet light for disinfection of surfaces within the security checkpoint environment;
    • The evaluation of stand-off detection technology to minimize the need to be in proximity or to have physical contact between TSOs and passengers;
    • The evaluation of explosive vapor detection to provide a touchless alternative to secondary screening solutions. [source]
  • Facial recognition, delivery drones, and other touchless tools Are making their way into a variety of government services. [source]

  • Delivery needs (USPS) similar to Amazon/Retail where limited human/physical interaction are required. Replacing keys with touchless/motion/ gestures sensors at residential /commercial communal mailboxes. As of now it’s still mostly keys and a move to touchless tools would be a leap.

Companies and Contracts

Disclaimer

GSA in no way endorses or recommends any particular company. The information listed below is intended to provide some centralized resources of current companies actively developing touchless tools. Inclusion or omission from this list merely reflects the limited resources available to the team generating this report. Many of the statements below rely on each company’s self-assertions rather than this team’s assessment of a given capability.

There are a wide variety of vendors capable of providing touchless tools, but for this coverage, we will only focus on low-cost, high-impact solutions.

Touchless Payment

  • Qualcomm Touchless Kiosks: Self-service kiosks with features such as biometric purchasing stations and verification points will enable a touchless experience. Facial recognition algorithms can perform automated tasks without the need to touch anything.
  • Apple Pay: Apple Pay replaces your physical cards and cash with an easier, safer, more secure, and private payment method. By storing physical card information into an iPhone, mobile devices can act as a virtual credit card that can conduct transactions without having to touch payment terminals.
  • Google Pay: Similar to Apple Pay, Google Pay allows users to pay for items or send money through their mobile devices. 

Voice Command

Sensors

  • Novelda provides sensors that can be incorporated into laptops and buildings in order to perform certain actions without having to touch anything. These sensors allow buildings to become smarter and automate tasks based on sensor proximity.
  • Other IoT sensor providers include (but are not limited to): Accruent, AREMIS, Brivo, eCIFM, essensys, FM:Systems, FSI, Honeywell, IBI Group, IBM, Infogrid, iOFFICE, JLL, Locatee, MRI Software, Nuvap, Nuvolo, Openpath, Planon, Rapal, Ricoh, Schneider Electric, ServiceNow, Siemens, SpaceIQ, Spacewell, Spica Technologies, Tango, Thing Technologies, ThoughtWire, VergeSense, and WeWork. Source

Biometrics 

  • 3M offers iris scanners, biometric systems, smart-card identity applications, palmprint card conversion systems, and ID management and credentialing solutions.
  • IrisGuard supplies end-to-end iris recognition biometric identification technology for large-scale deployments. EyePay, EyeBank, EyeCloud, and EyeCash technologies are some of the company’s innovative and secure financial delivery platforms that replace traditional recognition systems with an eye blink to authorize access. 
  • Daon Inc. provides biometrics and identity assurance software, including iris, voice information, finger scanner, and face recognition. Source
  • Tobii provides eye tracking technology, with current use cases within the PC gaming, automotive, and accessibility industries, which could be further expanded to include functionality within the professional workspace setting.

Gesture Command

  • GestureTek develops camera-enabled gesture-recognition technology for presentation and entertainment systems. They deliver “Wii-like” gesture-control without the need to wear, hold or touch anything. GestureTek has installed over 5,000 interactive multimedia displays, kiosks, exhibits, digital signs and advertisements, virtual gaming systems and other interactive surface computing solutions, many with multi-gesture interactivity.
  • Leap Motion technology senses hand movements, allowing users to interact with their computers without touching them. User’s don’t need to use a keyboard, mouse or touch-screen to change pages, flip through photos or to sculpt and build 3D models, but instead can do it all with a flick of a finger or a wave of a hand. 
  • Myo by Thalmic Labs interprets movements through an attached armband that reads gestures for a wide variety of uses. The armband senses muscle action and will transmit information to a phone, computer, or other digitally enabled devices. The armband can sense which direction users are aiming for, as well as the speed they’re intending to go.
  • Microchip provides microchips for gesture recognition using various general hand movements.

Example Gestures

Diagram showing various hand gestures used in touchless gestures: approach wake-up, flick gestures, airwheel gesture, sensor touch, wave gesture, hold gesture, presence gesture, and position tracking.

GSA Contracts

Other resources

Touchless Environment

Evaluate the need for touchless devices or additional services that enable employees to access and utilize spaces hands-free. If an agency wishes to make updates to its space, please contact your GSA Building Manager or the GSA Lease Administration Manager for pricing and approval. Agencies will need to provide a Reimbursable Work Authorization (RWA) through eRETA to fund updates.

Touchless Experience

In addition to maintaining a cleaner facility, consider looking for solutions that minimize people’s contact with surfaces. Agencies who wish to install automatic hold open devices on doors should consult with the GSA Building Manager or Lease Administration Manager and the GSA Regional Fire Protection Program Office. Plans for installing hold-open devices on doors must be reviewed by the GSA Fire Protection Officer. Requests to modify tenant spaces and install touchless features restrooms (e.g., motion activated toilets, faucets, and towel dispensers) must be approved by GSA or lessor and may require an RWA.

White House Priorities

The White House has identified four distinct priorities for the Administration. First on its list is moving to contain COVID-19. As part of the subordinate National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan the administration has highlighted the need to prevent economic and educational shutdowns. 

 Touchless technology can play a role in containing the pandemic and enabling in-person activities to return and thus eliminating the need for further shutdowns.Technologies such as these can prevent physical contact, slowing the spread of the virus, as well as reduce the number of surfaces that require sanitizing on a regular basis. As the federal workforce returns to their on-site duty stations, touchless technology can play a key role in ensuring we won’t need to return to an emergency fully remote work stance. In addition to reducing infections, the peace of mind afforded to employees by having less physical contact with commonly touched surfaces will create a more confident, cared-for work force. Finally, these touchless technologies will have benefits in reducing other transmissible diseases and potentially for future pandemics.

 Additionally, the White House is committed to ensuring Diversity Equity Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) be at the forefront of policy considerations. As shown in our coverage of Touchless Tools use cases and applications, there are extensive uses for building accessibility, particularly with respect to controlling the environment (doors, lights, thermostats, and other smart devices) through voice and/or gestures.

Laws/Legislation, Regulations, and Policy

There are few existing laws and regulations regarding touchless technology; however, there are a number of legal and ethical questions that should be taken into consideration, as these issues spurn public debate and the likelihood of future legislation.

For example, as GSA considers using biometrics in its Login.gov service, the agency has concerns about equity and accessibility.  How will these issues be addressed? The lack of existing regulation raises questions about their usage. For example current sensors placed above the grocery store doors to sense individuals approaching are passive, and expected. As facial recognition technology becomes passive, will it be as accepted. And if so, current concerns about accuracy and bias must be addressed.

What Laws, Legislation & Regulations are in place regarding Touchless Technologies? 

Is facial recognition legal in the US?  Face Recognition Is Being Banned—but It’s Still Everywhere. “That’s likely to continue, because face recognition is unregulated in most of the US, as there’s no federal law covering the technology. Many uses of face recognition have lower stakes than in policing; some, like unlocking a phone with a glance, can be convenient.”

That said, the the top six ethical concerns related to facial recognition systems include:

  • Racial bias in detection methods
  • Racial discrimination in law enforcement 
  • Data privacy
  • Lack of informed consent and transparency
  • Mass surveillance
  • Data breaches and lack of legal remedies. 

(Source)

These considerations are already having an impact, even absent regulation. The IRS, after weeks of pushback from Congress and the public, is now allowing taxpayers to sign up for an online account without the use of any biometric data, including facial recognition. Taxpayers now have the option to verify their identities through a live, virtual interview (Source). This decision has implications beyond the IRS, as GSA hasn’t ruled out biometrics for its Login.gov service as the agency plans to scale its use.

Specific rules and Legislation

Currently an interim FAR rule restricting certain foreign microchip manufacturing is in effect. (See Interim FAR Rule (Source).

Dependencies and Risks

There are a number of risks inherent to the adoption of any new technology; touchless tools are no different. Here are some specific potential risks associated with touchless tools:

  • As a relatively young technology, there may be a lower success rate when specific actions are designed to induce specific results. For example, it’s likely voice commands will be occasionally misunderstood, or even if understood, beyond the capacity of the device. The same is true with gesture controls. For each, the user would likely have to resort to a form of traditional manual control. For example, if a user says “Hey Google, turn on the light,” and nothing happens the user will need to use a light switch.
  • Distinct from ‘non-compliant’ answers, there is also the risk of misunderstood commands. In the case of voice control, perhaps worse than a non-result is a wrong result. This could result in an operation other than the intended one.
  • There is also the risk of intentional or unintentional breaches of sensitive information, particularly relating to IoT devices capable of capturing video and/or audio. This includes organizational information as well as at the biometric level, in some instances.

Dependencies

  • Existing rules and regulations around IoT devices have extensive security policies around them. Since many are “always listening” it’s important that devices comply with these policies, given the elevated risks listed above. Extensive security reviews are likely to be required, extending the acquisition timeline.
  • While many touchless technologies are designed to assist those with different abilities, not all are 508 compliant. This is a crucial consideration in adopting touchless technologies. In some instances where touchless tools are used in buildings, there may be implications with respect to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • With specific respect to touchless payment technology, specific apps and features may need to be reviewed and authorized for each government issued device, such as iPhone (Apple Pay), Android (Google Pay)
  • New technologies, particularly as broad as touchless, may require extensive instructional documentation and training before implementation. Limitations (particularly for voice activated systems) will have to be explained in detail.
  • Back-up plans need to be in place if the given technology just won’t work.

tech.gsa.gov / Office of the CTO

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