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Necessity is the mother of invention


By Stefano Lai, Key Account & Business Development, Pyramid Computer GmbH  

How the latest kiosk solutions can help with a safe return to work post coronavirus lockdown

Undeniably the title of this article is a well-used pearl of wisdom. However, never before has it been more applicable than in the case of the ongoing battle against the Coronavirus pandemic and the unprecedented repercussions the world is now experiencing. Continual innovation and invention have been occurring throughout the crisis and much of it is focused on ensuring public health and financial well-being.  

Of course, the online world has been a saviour throughout lockdown when it comes to essential and non-essential retail shopping as well as accessing essential services, not to mention enabling mass working from home. But now as we gradually return to a more normal way of life, further innovation is required. 

A key challenge is in allowing sufficient scope for people to go about their daily lives – be this going to the office or school, airport, station, shops or concert – while still maintaining a sensible level of protection from potential virus infection. Whereas personnel with hand-held temperature scanners are often overwhelmed during peak times and, therefore, are somewhat inefficient in large crowd situations, standalone temperature screening kiosks offer greater ability for safeguarding public health.

With this situation, leading kiosk providers are rising to the challenge to help facilitate the transition from lockdown to the ‘new normal’ way of life. One such area revolves around the launch of solutions for enabling safe passage for people when entering offices, public buildings, entertainment venues and a host of other ‘bricks and mortar’ facilities. Access security control kiosks with integrated fever screening functionality harness leading-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition and thermal imaging to deliver very efficient, all-in-one real-time temperature detection and ID security verification. 

In time, by acting as a first line of defence to protect staff, visitors and customers, these types of kiosk solutions are likely to become as commonplace and routine as personal bag security checking. They can be easily deployed in large office premises, airports, rail stations, restaurants and shops as well as sports, leisure and entertainment venues.  

However, their wide-scale user acceptance is dependent on these solutions being designed and optimised for accuracy, speed, safety and sheer user convenience – all without compromising the customer organisation’s need for health safety, access control and efficiency.  

Polytouch 32 Curve Access Control Kiosk Zipkey

Need for speed

Key usability design factors and considerations must include contactless operations while the processing speed of each user ‘transaction’ is essential – particularly in the case of larger office buildings, as well as airports, railway platforms and other locations involving large crowd processing. 

Any unnecessary delay using a kiosk access control solution can quickly create user frustration and also adversely impact throughput. Anything over five seconds to complete a temperature screening is likely to be unviable but at this mark, will allow processing of around 700 hundred people per hour via a single kiosk – including the time needed to approach the camera, perhaps removing glasses, facing the camera and receiving the results. This number can be increased significantly by deploying multiple kiosks in high volume areas. Enabling connection to automatic doors, turnstiles, locks or barriers can further streamline the access control process.  

Clearly, accuracy of temperature measurement is a prerequisite. This demands intelligent sensor technology using hundreds of measuring points. Equally important is the machine’s ability to track the distance between the subject and the sensor and that accurate measurement is within acceptable range. Preventing any user interference during temperature screening must also be taken into consideration.  

In practice  

As part of post Covid-19 ‘business as usual’ strategies, there are numerous potential applications for temperature-based access control kiosks. However, as countless millions of people return to work, one of the most important access security concerns will be controlling entry to large office buildings which house large or multiple businesses. Consider the resources required to manage not only employees, but also, numerous visitors, guests and suppliers requiring buildings entry every single day. 

However, there is a solution. A more efficient process occurs when visitors/customers are invited by an organisation to pre-register online and then upon arrival (in the outer lobby, for example), they proceed directly to the access kiosks for authorisation. This is a two-step verification process – matching facial recognition with personal photo ID (passport/driver’s licence) and simultaneously performing a temperature reading. On successful ID and temperature verification, RFID cards or ID badges are dispensed/printed by the kiosk, enabling user access to the premises and specific areas within it. If a fever is identified, an on-screen alert will advise the person to contact reception.  

Essentry, a global provider of access control solutions for enterprise applications, has calculated that in large enterprises managing a single visit can take 30 minutes on average per guest – when involving the receptionist, host, and administrative staff. By automating tasks at every stage of the process and assuming an initial online pre-registration has already taken place, Essentry can complete an individual’s ID and temperature check in just 10 seconds. This leaves reception staff free to focus on more valuable tasks and allows event hosts to save time through a much faster registration process. 

Personal ID and temperature access authorisation approaches could also be used in a variety of settings, such as airports and train stations, hospitals, universities and entertainment venues.

Maximising kiosk ‘afterlife’  

While mindful of the need to ensure the health safety and security of their staff, customers, guests and suppliers, many buildings and venue operators are also concerned with maximising ROI. They want to be certain of product longevity and lifecycle with the opportunity to accommodate other interactive applications in the future – perhaps when having as many health screening kiosks available is no longer necessary. Similarly from an ROI perspective, opportunities to quickly retrofit existing kiosks with thermal imaging, biometric facial recognition camera technology or any other new features can deliver the appropriate value. 

Therefore, a modular design approach is preferable for allowing greater scope for both retrofit and customisation. This provides the flexibility to add and change peripherals and devices to suit current requirements – audio navigation keypads, cameras and microphones, and peripherals such as payment systems, scanners and printers to be easily housed under the screens. 

Furthermore, touchscreens, computer units and peripherals that can be more easily and quickly changed will also facilitate repairs and upgrades. The ability to easily swap-out and plug-in processors and components rather than facing the disruption and costs of complete kiosk replacement will be an obvious advantage for all concerned.  

Post-coronavirus, temperature-based access control kiosks will become increasingly used and accepted. After all, they help provide additional peace-of-mind to us all as we strive to regain control of our daily lives. At the same time, for buildings owners and operators, investing in modular kiosk solutions offers future-proof applications with flexibility and greater extension of product lifetime.

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