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Bobby Varma Apr 12, 2021 1:38:20 PM 4 min read

Solutions for avoiding public surfaces in a post-pandemic world

Public surfaces are a part of modern life.  We grab doorknobs previously touched by others, we exchange cash touched by hundreds of people, and we use our phones where viruses can live for days.  Even things like pin-pads, fingerprint or palm-vein readers, and optical sensors require our touch. Until the current pandemic, public surfaces were something we knew instinctively were not clean, but we did not fear them. Sadly now, fear of contagion living on public surfaces is our new reality as we move throughout our daily lives.  

As students and staff look beyond the current shutdown, and consider returning to campus this fall, the demand for touchless technologies will increase.  Campuses will need to balance the comfort of an open campus with our new aversion to public surfaces. Touchless biometric solutions provide security by offering seamless, clean, high-assurance identity management starting with physical access control. Students and staff will be able to use touchless iris readers to conveniently enter campus buildings, dormitories and athletic facilities.

If you have somewhere on campus that really needs to be secure, odds are it’s been secured with a fingerprint reader; they’ve been around longer than any other biometric device and have become so inexpensive that they’re easy to find nearly everywhere. Until the current pandemic, these contact systems (remember, you put your finger on them) were something we didn’t worry about being clean; we all knew they were dirty, remember what people pick their noses with? (sorry to be obvious). Unfortunately, the reality of highly contagious deadly diseases living longer and longer on public surfaces means touching them is a no-no. Trying to keep these readers running by wiping between each use is a stopgap measure until that location runs out of wipes, then no one will use them. The question will remain in everyone’s mind “do I really need to touch that?”

When everyone comes back to campus four months from now, they’ll have an entirely new set of habits around cleanliness and hygiene (it takes on average 66 days to form new habits).  Campuses will need to maintain sanitizer stations and wipes at every location where touching a shared surface is required. Touchless biometric solutions such as iris provide security by offering a fast, reliable, mask and glove friendly access control without these negative cleanliness associations. Students and staff will be able to use touchless iris readers to hygienically enter campus buildings, dormitories, athletic facilities, and labs without losing the convenience of just being yourself.

Cheap fingerprint readers provide security all over university campuses. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t worry about putting our fingers on them. But now, public surfaces represent a real health problem. Providing wipes is neither a convenient nor reliable solution. Touching a fingerprint sensor is just not hygienic.

The pandemic will end whether in two months or a year into the future. In anticipation, campuses can consider swapping out their fingerprint readers for touchless iris biometric readers that send the identical door-opening signals sent by fingerprint readers. Iris readers even have the advantage of working when users wear facemasks. Dorms, athletic facilities and labs will remain secure and users will remain healthy.

Iris recognition technology is the next step in the evolution of the digital campus integrating seamlessly and cost-effectively into existing access control systems.

Nothing to touch, nothing to carry, nothing to lose and nothing to fear.

Bobby Varma

Bobby Varma is the CEO of Princeton Identity.