While no one knows when the medical community will finally come up with a COVID-19 vaccine, one thing’s for certain: the public is more aware of health risks than ever before. Given what we have all been through, people are paying closer attention to what they touch. Which is why self-service technology providers are introducing touchless solutions at a rapid rate. Considering ATMs historically have used touch to operate, this problem is of great concern to this industry.
Health-conscious consumers want to know that the surfaces they touch have been sanitized, which is why banks, ATM operators, retailers, health care facilities and other public locations are requiring sanitation crews to wipe down public areas at regular intervals.
Many, if not most, self-service equipment providers are cognizant of the post-pandemic mindset and have been busy exploring sanitation products.
The search for effective cleaning products can be challenging, given the number of products introduced in recent months. Additionally, ATMs have areas that are more sensitive to others in terms of liquid. What alternatives are there?
Embracing UV lighting
A number of large commercial properties, such as banks and credit unions, have deployed ultraviolet lighting, a non-chemical alternative to removing pathogens to sanitize their facilities.
Some hospitals have deployed autonomous robots to flood guest rooms with UV light which tests have indicated can eliminate SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 causing virus, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
UCFS Health in San Francisco has installed 10 patient check-in kiosks from Connected Technology Solutions Inc. that come equipped with a sensor that detects when the user has left the kiosk and automatically disinfects the screen and peripheral equipment between uses in about 30 seconds if not interrupted.
“They work fine,” Tatyana Latushkih, UCFS Health senior operations and project specialist told this website when asked about the CTS check-in kiosks. “Clinics didn’t report any problems with the UV lights or check-in delays due to screen disinfection.”
For older kiosks, Latushkin said, UCFS Health uses a chemical sanitizing solution.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority in May announced a test that uses UV lighting as part of a layered approach to disinfect subway trains, buses and crew facilities. Many in the ATM industry have been testing this solution as well.
Whether these approaches are more effective at protecting people from harmful pathogens than alcohol wipes is a question that hasn’t been answered, according to several sources interviewed by this website.
Science weighs in
“Until we have some more thorough studies that show the prevalence of surfaces or inanimate objects transmitting the virus, it’s hard to know how important that is,” Matthew Cabeen, Ph.D., assistant professor at Oklahoma State University’s biochemistry and molecular biology department, told this website.
“Bleach kills everything,” Cabeen said, as does alcohol-containing products like hand sanitizer. “They’re able to dehydrate bacterial cells and viruses and kill almost all of them. Most disinfectants and sanitizing agents work by disrupting parts of cells that are common to all viral particles or bacteria.”
Cabeen thinks people should be careful about using UV light, however.
“The same way that it kills the viruses and bacteria is by damaging the DNA, we’re also susceptible to,” he said. “Bleach isn’t good for you either, but you aren’t going to accidentally ingest it.”
Cabeen said hard surfaces can be cleaned effectively with bleach and alcohol products. He further noted that hard surfaces are not the main transmitters of COVID-19. Most people get COVID-19 from respiratory droplets (through coughing and sneezing) versus hard surfaces, he said.
“There haven’t been any advances in my opinion with surface disinfection with chemical agents since the era of COVID-19,” he said.
One company’s journey
George Smith, president and CEO of Family Entertainment Group LLC, an Itasca, Illinois based, 50-unit chain of family entertainment centers, has been studying sanitation products extensively since the coronavirus began. Smith, who has reopened most of his amusement locations since early spring, has relied on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for sanitation materials and has tested a variety of products.
He uses commercial grade disinfectants and Windex to clean his amusement machines daily.
For disinfecting larger surface areas, he has tested cordless, battery powered electrostatic sprayers. The sprayers, made by Victory Innovations Co. in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, charge the liquid before entering the nozzle, enabling large amounts of liquid to be sprayed over a targeted surface.
For his virtual reality headsets, Smith uses a self-contained box which dries the objects and removes any remaining debris with high velocity air, a one-minute process. The UV light penetrates all surface areas of the device, including those unreachable by wipes, where bacteria and virus can live.
The device also uses “superhydrophobic nano coating” to prevent moisture from permeating the surfaces, according to the manufacturer, Cleanbox.
Cleanbox claims the solution is highly effective against H1N1, which caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic, but that additional studies are needed to determine the specific dose response required to inactivate COVID-19 on different surfaces.
Smith has also tested UV lighting fixtures provided by a hospitality partner, but he is not convinced the UV lighting fixtures are necessary since the virus is not usually transmitted on hard surfaces.
“It’s not the main way that this (COVID-1) is progressing,” Smith said.
“UV will pretty much kill anything that’s there, but the practical nature of it is cumbersome,” he said. In addition, “It comes with negatives,” Smith said. Plastics, wood and rubber will disintegrate over time.
Killing versus spreading
“When people talk about things that kill COVID, they do kill COVID, but they don’t stop the spread of COVID,” agreed Randy Drawas, chief marketing officer at Vital Vio, Troy, New York-based provider of anti-microbial LED lighting to prevent the growth of pathogens.
“Nothing will eliminate it except for social distancing and a mask, washing your hands and getting a vaccine,” Drawas said. “The only thing you can do is wear a mask so you don’t spread it, and ultimately try to eliminate it with a vaccine.”
Drawas compared some of the new sanitation products to bleach, which will also kill COVID but will not prevent it from spreading. Vital Vio uses overhead LED lighting to disinfect a surface. One option for a location is to have a light inside of a ceiling that would expose the environment to anti-microbial light, he said.
“COVID doesn’t transmit itself necessarily by remaining on the surfaces,” Drawas said, echoing both Cabeen and Smith. “Cleaning the surfaces is a really good idea for lots of reasons, but when it comes to COVID, (it’s) purely human-to-human transmission.”
“When we get to the end of this, hopefully sooner or later, people are more cognizant of the fact that invisible things can hurt us,” said Drawas. “If there is a silver lining to COVID, it is the fact that there’s been a shift in our perception in health and wellness,” he said.
Source: ATM Marketplace