The Role of Touchless Authentication in a Post-COVID Work Environment

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What will be the significance of touchless authentication in a world recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic? Are there any existing touchless technologies being implemented?

Nobody could have predicted the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all aspects of our lives. As we approach the end of the 18th month of the pandemic and look forward to a return to normalcy, new technologies aimed at preventing the spread of current and future viruses are becoming more common.

Will COVID Become Endemic?

We have spent the last 18 months staying at home, waiting for the arrival of vaccines, and hoping for a gradual return to normal. While the vaccines and other precautionary measures will eventually help slow down the spread of the virus, experts believe that COVID-19 is likely to become endemic. It won’t simply disappear at the end of the pandemic, much like the annual flu virus. Instead, it will persist, but with collective immune protection in place, it won’t reach pandemic levels again.

In this scenario, touchless authentication tools will become even more valuable in preventing future virus outbreaks from spreading as rapidly and efficiently as COVID-19 did.

How Does Touchless Tech Work?

Most modern authentication technologies require physical contact, whether it’s entering a passcode, scanning an ID card, or using biometrics such as fingerprints, palm scans, or retinal scanners. Before 2020, designers seldom considered the need for antimicrobial surfaces, making these methods perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses transmission from person to person.

The rise of touchless technology began with tap-to-pay cards that utilize RFID chips embedded in the card’s surface to transmit card information directly to the point of sale without any physical contact with keypads or card readers. According to a MasterCard survey, due to the pandemic, 79% of card users now prefer contactless payment options for their everyday purchases. While this is beneficial for consumer transactions, it doesn’t necessarily translate well to business applications unless a company invests in RFID-enabled ID cards for its entire workforce.

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Other touchless authentication tools include QR codes and mobile technologies like secure smartphone apps, which allow employees to clock in and access secure facilities without touching anything except the door handle. Additionally, automated doors remove the need for contact, further ensuring the safety and well-being of staff while they’re in the office.

New Touchless Authentication Ideas for Businesses

Although temperature checks aren’t foolproof for identifying COVID-19 cases, it’s a good practice to keep individuals with fevers out of the workplace, regardless of the cause—especially in healthcare settings or assisted living facilities with higher risks.

Companies have introduced touchless time clocks for such situations, where employees scan a QR code on the time clock while an infrared thermometer measures their temperature. This touchless time clock not only helps reduce the spread of viruses like COVID-19 and the flu but also allows employees to clock in and out much faster compared to traditional methods.

Biometric scans, such as palm readers, might seem contradictory to touchless authentication. However, advanced options now allow users to hold their palms up to six inches away from the scanner, providing accurate scans and enhanced security. Voice recognition and iris scanners are also gaining popularity as they require no physical contact. A study by KBV Research predicts that the contactless biometrics industry will be worth $18.6 billion by 2026.

Facial recognition has even begun to be used as a payment option in some areas. PopID, for instance, has recently deployed a facial recognition payment system in 25 different restaurants and retailers across California. While touchless authentication options are available, they are only starting to emerge as viable alternatives, particularly outside of retail environments.

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Implementing facial recognition and other biometrics in businesses generate massive amounts of data that can be overwhelming for manual analysis. However, introducing this data to an AI-powered machine learning system can help business owners identify customer demographics, track security issues, and more. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, touchless authentication might also serve as a valuable tool for contact tracing, enabling businesses to conduct rapid temperature scans and aiding local, state, and federal governments in monitoring virus spread.

Touchless Tech – Preparing for the Future

COVID-19 may be the first global pandemic in our lifetimes, but it’s not the first one in history. As the climate continues to change and the planet warms, future pandemics are likely. Melting permafrost is releasing ancient virus strains from frozen animals that haven’t been seen in thousands of years, and we lack natural immunities against them.

It is crucial to apply the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to our daily lives moving forward. By doing so, we can hopefully prevent another pandemic from bringing the world to a standstill as this one did.

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