Contactless living

By Terry Sharp, President of the BCIA

Once upon a time, a common question in shops, pubs and restaurants was; “do you take card?”. Now, the question is more likely to be; “do you take cash?”. Long before lockdown there was already talk of moving towards a ‘cashless’ society’, whereby financial transactions are not conducted with money in the form of physical banknotes or coins. Over the past nine months, the focus on restricting the spread of germs has intensified and ‘card only’ check out tills in supermarkets are now a common sight.


As soon as Coronavirus took a grip on the world, and shortly before we entered lockdown, we were all being strongly advised to wash our hands thoroughly after coming into contact with surfaces likely to have been touched by other people. Door handles, taps, shopping trolleys and petrol pumps were all potential places where the disease could be easily spread from one hand to another. It is no surprise then when you consider how many fingers our notes and coins come into contact with that contactless payment systems are quickly becoming a real necessity, so much so that it is now almost a shock when an outlet does not offer a contactless option.


A couple of examples have already caught my eye that show how contactless customer interaction is moving away from being a useful novelty to becoming a key offering in commercial environments. Leyeju, a hotel chain in China, now runs nine smart hotels across the country boasting an entirely automated stay, with an unstaffed reception and no concierge. Instead, customers check in using biometric facial recognition technology before being taken to their room by a robot. In the room everything is automated, the lighting, air conditioning, TV and even the curtains, eliminating the need to touch switches or controls. Meanwhile at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Umhlanga, South Africa, guests are able to control the lights, TV and the air conditioning, via the Hilton mobile app.


Of course hotels are not the only places in which we will begin to see changes in routine. Smart technology is likely to be a driving force in a lot of changes to our everyday lives, and by the time our children and grandchildren have grown up this way of living will more than likely be the norm.


Indeed, some of them are already assessing how we can improve our built environment – even at a very young age! It recently gave me great pleasure to name the winner of the BCIA’s Schoolz Out competition held over the summer, which challenged school pupils to design an energy saving product or initiative for their school which uses an element of control to save energy. Seven-year-old Edgar Vann won first prize for his design; a rain water saving device powered by solar panels. Well done to Edgar, and the BCIA is looking forward to running the competition again next year.