Moneycontrol PRO
you are here: HomeNewsTechnology

COVID-19 impact | Touchless technology is the future. But are we ready?

Touchless sensing market is growing at the rate of 17.4 percent and is expected to touch $15.3 billion in 2025 from $6.8 billion in 2020.

May 19, 2020 / 12:46 AM IST

Few months from now, your attendance will be marked by facial recognition system or by voice. In airports, you will print your boarding pass through gestures.

Touchless technology is here to stay and will witness growth much faster than earlier due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Experts point out that touchless technology is likely to accelerate adoption across sectors such as aviation despite slump in business.

What is touchless technology?

The technology uses sensors to recognise your gestures, facial features or voice to complete a task. For instance, voice assistants such as iPhone Siri or Alexa, which uses voice-based technology. The technology interprets speech using automated speech recognition (ASR), a technology that helps human interact with computer using voice.

The same goes for facial recognition or gestures. In case of gesture, as the name suggests you use gestures to control and interact without actually touching the device. This technology uses computer vision algorithm to interpret the sign language for the action to be completed.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

View more
How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

View more

Track this blog for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak

In facial recognition, it uses human facial patterns for identification. Take for instance facial recognition tech smart phone uses for unlocking. It uses sensors to capture your facial features and uses the information to identify you.

Where will the technology first pick up?

Biometric and aviation are few areas that may see quicker adoption.

Pareekh Jain, founder, Pareekh Consulting, a technology consulting firm, explained that companies will replace biometric attendance with touchless systems as there is no clarity on how long the situation is likely to last.

Due to COVID-19, most companies suspended biometric attendance, including IT firms. Some replaced them with access cards.

"But once the offices become fully operational, large enterprises are likely to adopt facial recognition," said Jain.

It is not just attendance, as situation continues, these technologies has the potential to replace any application that uses biometric.

Aviation is another area that will be one of the early adopters of touchless technology. Hexware Technologies is now working with its clients in sectors such as aviation to develop touchless solutions.

R Srikrishna, CEO, Hexaware Technologies, told Moneycontrol that although the aviation sector is going through a crisis, they will still have to operate even if the capacity is about half the size.

So they will have to invest in contactless process, he added. It could be getting the boarding pass printed through gestures or voice-based for on-boarding process.

US-based Clear, biometrics firm that has developed biometric-based solutions to bypass travel document at security checking in airports, has now jumped into COVID-19 screening. Clear is rolling out health e-pass that will now link health data to verified IDs so that businesses can track their employees.

Other sectors

In India, Uber is using a technology to check if a driver is wearing mask. The technology will check if a driver is wearing a mask based on the selfie driver sends whenever he starts the ride. Zomato recently launched contactless dining for post-lockdown world. This include digital menu by scanning QR code, ordering through app and contactless payments.

Infosys launched contact-less baggage management solutions for a North American airline. Cognizant introduced touchless authorisation processing for healthcare service providers. More such solutions will be the norm going forward across sectors.

Market for technology

According to markets report, touchless sensing market is growing at the rate of 17.4 percent and will reach $15.3 billion in 2025 from $6.8 billion in 2020. This is driven by increasing demand for contact-free sensing at back of COVID-19.

However its implementation is not without challenges.


Cost of sensors is a challenge. Touchless sensing products are expensive and it might not be possible for firms to implement them in all aspects. In Wipro, washrooms are now fitted with sensors. An analyst pointed out that firms cannot make the entire office premises touchless given how expensive it would be at a time when businesses are hit. While wider adoption might bring prices down, firms will be judicious, the analyst added.

Another issue is with use of facial recognition that is likely to gain pace with COVID-19.

Facial recognition uses facial features to recognise an individual. Unlike fingerprints or iris, the identification is not accurate though works are on to improve accuracy. There have been cases where the technology has made inaccurate identification when it comes to people of colour, especially transgenders and ethnic minorities.

At this juncture, wide implementation, especially by the enforcement personnel like police, could result in inaccurate identification.

Privacy is another major concern too. There will be need for more clarity from government on how the data will be used and for what purpose. There is a need for stronger regulation before it is adopted widely.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak here

Swathi Moorthy
first published: May 18, 2020 05:40 pm