Zero-contact robotics: the cutting edge of workplace virus control

In Part I of this series, we explored how disinfection robots are allowing workplaces to sanitize more safely and dependably. In Part II, we explore the opportunities that robotics have opened for safe, efficient workplace operations with a minimum of virus-transmitting contact.

If you want to understand how quickly an outbreak like coronavirus can spread through the workplace, and why robots’ ability to reduce physical contact is so valuable, here is a helpful exercise: think about your typical workday and start counting the times you make contact, skin-to-surface and person-to-person.

Try putting it in numbers. How many people did you stand near to while you waited in a line? How many buttons and scanners did you press? How many doors did you open and close? How many items passed between yourself and another person? Then, apply these same questions to your daily commute, and to everyone else in your workplace.

Now that you’ve tried counting, can you give a number? Probably not; the scale of contact is simply too big. It’s a sobering reminder of how easily one workplace can spread dangerous viruses like COV-19. It’s also a call to arms for any business that intends to stay safe and open through this coronavirus crisis: right now is the time right now to protect your workplace and your people to the fullest.

Workplace robots: cut down on contact, cut down on risk
The threat is very real, but so are the options now available through robotics and AI technology. The answer is not to shut down or stay home, but to implement a multi-pronged hygiene and sanitization strategy that integrates some of the most exciting technology on the market.

This is why zero-contact robots have emerged as a key tool for controlling coronavirus transmission. By putting a robotic middleman in many traditional workplace roles, and replacing old-school buttons with AI and mobile-based commands, workplaces can now minimize on site contact and keep their employees safer than ever before.

Entryways, gates & passages: no hand-held equipment, no delays, no touch
From the company president, to the freshest intern everyone in your building probably arrives through one of very few entry points. This is a critical space for virus control because it is the place where everyone breathes the same air, goes through the same security checks and passes by the same reception areas.

Let’s look at the (too) typical experience of an entry space during the coronavirus epidemic and compare it with how things can go when a zero-contact solution is implemented.

Typical experience:
A visitor arrives at reception and waits to check in, behind two other people. When his turn comes, he puts his hands on the same countertop, using the same pen and sign-in document as every other visitor that day. The receptionist then gives him an access card that seven other people have handled since Monday. Before the visitor passes through the entry gate, a security guard steps within inches and checks his temperature. The visitor is the 157th person the guard has been in close range of that day. Finally, the visitor scans the card on a surface scanner, the gates open and he waits at the elevator with five other people. He presses the up button - the 43rd time it has been pressed today.

Close contact: Nine people | Contact through touch: Hundreds of people.

The zero-contact experience: 
A visitor enters the building and is greeted in the lobby by a friendly robot who asks how it can help. The visitor says that he is meeting a sales rep. The robot collects and confirms the needed details using voice-recognition technology. At the same time, the robot is using facial recognition to make a digital record of the visitor which can be accessed for any future visits. When the details are confirmed, the robot notifies the sales rep upstairs by sending a direct message to his mobile. He confirms and gets ready to welcome his visitor. Meanwhile, the robot is using an infrared thermal camera to assess the visitor’s body temperature, a safe 35.7 degrees. The robot guides the visitor to the elevator, automatically unlocking the gates as they pass through. The robot displays a new QR code on its screen and explains that the visitor can scan it to call an elevator. The visitor scans and order his ride to floor 3.

Close contact: Zero | Contact through touch: Zero, except for the visitor's own phone.

Unmanned delivery: keep your facility running
Even after you’ve arrived and been screened, the workday offers plenty of opportunity for virus transmission. It’s rarely possible (or desirable) to isolate staff from each other at the workplace. Where companies can make a concrete gain is using zero-contact robots to automate delivery and supply tasks that are traditionally manual, time-consuming and contact heavy. Let’s repeat the compare-and-contrast exercise:

The typical experience:
It’s lunchtime and an employee needs several things at once: a drink to stay energized, some folders to organize the mess on her desk and also her lunch, which should be delivered downstairs in about 10 minutes. But, she also has important work to complete and a tight deadline. The employee rushes to the office café where she must wait in line behind three people. While in line, she gets a notification – the delivery man has arrived; nevermind that coffee. She rushes into an elevator with seven other people and meets the delivery man. She rushes back up to her desk to eat as quickly as possible, quickly working with even more urgency and less focus.

Close contact: Eleven people | Contact through touch: Hundreds of people | Delivery: only 1 of 3

The zero-contact experience:

The same employee, facing the same deadline, uses her phone to scan a QR code on her desk. A menu opens up and she orders a drink, as well as the stationary she needs. Instantly, a robot receives her order from across the office. It rolls to an automated vending machine in the office café to get her drink. It signals the vending machine to open, and the robot autonomously picks up the bottle, putting it in a secure compartment embedded in its torso. Then it moves on to a second vending machine, where it picks up the requested office supplies. The employee hasn’t left her desk or stopped working. When the robot arrives, she scans its QR code and the compartment opens up, with her food and stationary inside. Meanwhile, the delivery man is downstairs. On floor one, he scans a QR code posted near the entrance. The same robot receive a notification, takes the elevator on its own, and returns to the employee’s desk with a hot lunch. She has everything she needs and hasn’t stopped working for a moment

Close contact: Zero | Contact through touch: Zero. | Delivery: 3 for 3.

How Aden Robotics can help
Right now, at Aden’s headquarters in Shanghai, and its 80 cities of operation in China, Aden Robotics is linking partners with the most advanced zero contact robots on the market. Our network is cross-brand and cross-sector, allowing us to combine the best equipment for each site’s specific needs.

We also provide a range of hygiene and disinfection robots for surface, air and HVAC disinfection.  

Are you interested in a robotics solution? Let's talk. Start the process by taking this survey assessing your needs:

Want to know more about the robots and services Aden can bring to your facility?
Download our brochure and Q&A on disinfection and hygiene robots: Brochure
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