How to use technology hygienically and which solutions can your vendors offer during COVID?
Joe Camilleri handles Unified Communictions Collaboration at Exclusive Networks. Here he discusses the best and most efficient ways for organisations to stay hygienic in a COVID world.
The original premise of this article was that we would discuss non-touch technology solutions. However, this creates a false expectation. The notion that you can walk into the room, talk, and all of a sudden technology will follow your voice responses is false. Yes, we have Google Assistant and Alexa but, when it comes to the commercial world, you can't walk in to a meeting room and say, “Please start my 3:00 PM Teams meeting with Nicole and Joe.” It would be great if we could, but we're not quite there yet. If we were, that would constitute, ‘non-touch.’
As much as we would love to work in a non-touch environment, touching things is part of our everyday life. We touch doorknobs, desks, pens, mouse pads… the whole lot. So, we have to be mindful as to how we touch, what we touch and examine the ways we bring what we touch, into the shared environment where we work.
We all walk into meeting rooms, go to office desks, visit kitchens, go to the toilet and we're constantly being told, wash your hands for 20 seconds and sanitise-up at every touch point. But, we've got to a point where that’s being overlooked again – we're slipping back into our old habits. Yes, we still wash our hands after certain functions, but we don’t sanitize as much in the workplace. So, how should we behave when hosting an in-person meeting with other people?
1. Sanitise all relevant touch points
If people are meeting in a meeting-room environment and they wanted to minimize touching contaminated surfaces, the first thing they need to do is sanitise the shared devices in the room and they can do this simply by wiping everything down.
Normally, if there's a screen in the room, we either touch it to turn it on, or touch it to wake up the touch-sensitive element. We also touch all the peripherals to check that they are working. What we don't do is wipe the screen down: we don’t ensure that it’s a clean panel before we begin. We tend to clean down tables. We tend to clean chairs and door knobs, but we never really go to the peripherals we use on a regular basis.
There are a few ways we can do this and there are plenty of products you can buy, but I'm not going to name any brands. The best way is to have a spray bottle that’s filled with roughly 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol and 30 per cent water. Start by spraying that on a microfiber cloth and wiping the screen in circular motions. Then wipe the frame down, the keyboard and all the peripherals. This will provide a cleaner environment for everyone before you begin.
2. BYOD and use technology that minimises touch
Some of the vendor products that Exclusive Networks manage, enable visitors to bring their own technology into meeting spaces. If people bring their own tablet or laptop from their own ecosphere environment, they know how it works and they know how clean it is. People tend to be cleaner with their own items than communal equivalents, so using them creates fewer contaminated points of touch.
This is where one of the Mersive products shines. The Solstice Pod, enables visitors to easily share content from their own devices. It's a peripheral that plugs into your screen and allows you to connect to it via Wi-Fi. It enables every participant in the room to collaborate and share content from their own device without having to plug-in cables or physically search for something to communicate with. It's a very simple way of communicating.
It’s a little box the size of a computer dock. It has an Ethernet port to connect to your office LAN, but it also emits its own Wi-Fi network. If people in a meeting room do not have the partner app on their device, they simply punch-in a four-digit code and can start sharing content. The person beside them can do the same. Now they can mediate without touching anything.
If you need to collaborate by going up to a shared screen and interacting with it by touching, it’s worth noting that the Avocor panels we sell function equally well with latex gloves. If you’re part of a forward-thinking organisation, it would have supplied you with your own stylus to interact with that touch panel too. Avocor styluses don’t require paring and they aren’t active. They’re just screen-printed plastic which means they’re cheap to the point where you can buy 50 at a reasonable cost and hand them all out. That way, people can go in to a meeting room and start mediating on these panels using their own tools – they're not using a communal tool.
On top of this, we all tend to pick up a pen if we see it on a desk and fidget with it. If we bring our own stylus in, we’re less likely to touch a communal one.
Other conferencing products which minimise touch and that we like to use ourselves, come from Huddly and Poly. We supply these products at Exclusive Networks too. The Huddly camera is particularly cool. It’s a small form factor camera (37 x 37 x 60mm) that uses artificial intelligence to do people counting and people tracking. It simply connects via USB and just works – there's no messing around with codecs and drivers. There's a good microphone embedded in it too.
Ultimately, we need to be mindful and respectful of others when using communal technology by wiping things down before and after use. Also, bring your own device (and peripherals) as often as possible and, at the end of a meeting, be sure to take everything that you brought into the room, away with you again – thereby creating a clean environment for the next person to use.