Touchscreen hygiene – is the future touchless?

A small piece of research into the future of touchscreen technology recently caught our eye. User research agency Foolproof wanted to find out how the pandemic is affecting use of touchscreens and whether the effects are long lasting.

Bank ATMs cause greatest concern

Even before the pandemic, touchscreen hygiene was a concern for many people. A 2019 UK report by Trend-Monitor found that more than 70% of respondents were worried about using public touchscreens. Bank ATMs caused the most concern, followed by hospital check-in screens.

Foolproof found that people are now more concerned than before about using touchscreens.

“Since the outbreak, 3 out of 4 people say they are now more concerned than before about ATMs, a similar number about touchscreens in GP surgeries and more than half of users are more concerned than before about smartphones. Previously much less of a worry, card payment terminals are now more of a concern for 6 out of 10 users, making it into the top 5 touchpoints of concern.”

Does this mean the future is touchless?

Perhaps not touchless, but possibly less touch. “We’re not on the cusp of an entirely touchless future but we are seeing an early aversion to touch, or a desire for less touch where possible,” said Foolproof. “Products and services will have to change to accommodate this irrespective of the fidelity of these changes.”

Foolproof believes the next step is “private to public” interactions. In their research 7 in 10 people said that they would prefer to use their phones as the interface to connect with services instead of using touchscreens.

“This means a human controlling a private device, like a mobile phone, to interact with public interfaces. This could mean using your phone to access a cash machine or using mobile payments amongst other interactions.”

Simple ways to alleviate hygiene concerns

So, if in the short-term the future isn’t touchless how can businesses alleviate customer hygiene concerns?

According to Foolproof, small developments could make a difference. They proposed increasing the limit for contactless payments from £30 to £45. Styluses are another option which could remove much of the physical touching of technology - where screen type allows.

In addition, they suggested simple steps like: “providing basic sanitary items next to cash or ticketing machines, meaning people can clean their hands before and after touching the interface. Another option is indicating the regularity at which touchpoints are cleaned whilst improving the frequency of doing this”.

Touchscreen hygiene

Public Health England haven’t issued any additional advice around use of touchscreens. Instead people are advised to continue to wash their hands frequently with hot water and soap for 20 seconds or use alcohol hand gel and be aware of safe coughing etiquette.

Like other frequently touched surfaces, touchscreens have the potential to transmit bacteria and viruses between people. Increased cleaning of touchscreens with an appropriate and effective cleaner will help prevent spread of germs and also provide reassurance to consumers.