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Facing covid-19 with contactless innovations

Still constantly worried about the risk of infection from surfaces? Here’s a look at two solutions for contactless activity

HandKey’s brass clamp is housed in an ABS plastic case and doesn’t come in direct contact with a user’s skin.
HandKey’s brass clamp is housed in an ABS plastic case and doesn’t come in direct contact with a user’s skin.

Even though the latest guidelines suggest the risk of contracting covid-19 from surfaces, or fomites, may not be as high as some thought earlier, this hasn’t stopped designers from coming up with contactless solutions for a variety of situations.

Though infected respiratory droplets remain the primary mode of transmission, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests people can be infected if they touch surfaces or objects that have the virus and then touch their mouths, nose or eyes. Here’s a look at two new contactless designs.



Earlier this year, research published in The New England Journal Of Medicine evaluated how long the covid-19 virus could survive on surfaces like cardboard, plastic or copper. It concluded that “no viable SARS-CoV-2 was measured after 4 hours" on copper. Essentially, the virus didn’t survive for too long on copper surfaces, which can break down a pathogen’s microbial load.

So, by leveraging copper’s antimicrobial features, product designers Apoorv Shankar and Yogansh Namdeo created HandKey, a “covid key" that can be used as an extension to perform simple, daily tasks like holding door handles, pushing and pulling doors, touching the ATM keys or carrying shopping bags. “If you look at some of the other similar keys in the market, they were all bare, open keys made of plastic. The problem with such devices was that once you touch the key with any other surface, there is no easy way to keep it back. Once that surface gets, say, contaminated, you can’t keep it in your pocket or bag," explains Shankar.


So how is HandKey different? For starters, HandKey’s clamp is made of brass, an alloy with 70% copper. This clamp is housed in an ABS plastic case and attached to a slider, so that it slides back into the case when not in use. The case also comes with a cap that opens and closes automatically when the clamp is moved. So the clamp never comes in direct contact with a user’s skin and can be carried around safely as it gradually disinfects itself.

HandKey weighs roughly 70g and Shankar says the product does not have a restricted shelf life. Barring a few scratches and gradual fading of colour, the product will easily last one-two years even if used on a daily basis. “The idea was to make the product in such a way that there were very few moving components, to keep the manufacturing cost low. There are no springs, hinges in this," adds Shankar. The product, launched in August, costs 349 and Shankar says they have sold around 300 units online and had enquiries for 500-600 units through offline channels. “We are majorly focusing on offline channels. Online is something we have recently started," he adds.

Touch-free elevators

One of the most commonly used and touched surfaces in apartment complexes and office buildings are elevator buttons. In many parts of the world, foot-pedals have replaced elevator buttons. But Surat-based engineer Bhavin Ahir’s company TechMax Solution has used infrared technology to come up with a way to use elevators without actually touching anything.

“Sparshless" is a contactless elevator panel system that uses infrared to detect which key a user is pointing his finger at. This system comes in 14-, 8- and 4-button panel variants, with an outdoor unit sensor that can be used to call the elevator. Its key selling point is that the system can be used with any elevator/ lift model.

“The system’s circuitry remains the same but we can customize the panels, numbering according to the buyer’s preference," says Ahir, 32. He conceptualized and designed Sparshless during the lockdown. “Everyone was focusing on masks, sanitizers, but I realized that elevator buttons were an area that need attention too. I live on the 12th floor, for instance. I took feedback from my friends and family members before designing this," he says.

Ahir says Sparshless is at present available offline channels and has so far garnered demand from users in India and the UAE.

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