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Switching in the time of COVID-19

30 September 2020

COVID-19 has brought into sharp focus the confidence that people have in Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), such as push-button switches, joysticks and other controls subject to operation by numerous people.

Controls such as door-opening buttons on public transport, touchscreens on vending and ticketing machines, and machinery adjustment mechanisms used by multiple workers in a factory setting can all be a source of contamination. 

HMI technologists, such as EAO, are striving to develop machine controls that resist the spread of infection and improve the confidence that users have in their equipment interfaces. EAO is approaching the problem from multiple angles, depending on the nature of the interaction between the control function and the human that operates them, asking:

• Can the need to touch the equipment be completely avoided using sensing technology to initiate a switching function?
• Can the actuator be redesigned to operate the equipment using a part of the body that is less susceptible to infection (e.g. the elbow), or with the aid of an inanimate object commonly carried on the person, such as a pen or a key?
• Can the switch actuators be manufactured with antibacterial/antiviral chemicals within the plastics, or as bonded coatings that inhibit the growth of viruses and bacteria?

Read the full article in the October issue of DPA

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