Zero Contact Sign-in Systems: An overview of methods

With the introduction of the UK’s official Test and Trace app, businesses in the hospitality sector became legally obliged to offer at least two sign in methods for their customers. Gwil Goode and Andrew Long, co-founders of visitor management company, Welcm, offer an overview of techniques to build a contact free sign in system for bars, restaurants and places of work that is also GDPR compliant. READ MORE…
Check-in kiosk tablet upon arrival at front desk of test center for diagnostic testing, medical.

An overview of techniques to build a contact free sign in system for bars, restaurants and places of work.

As businesses started to re-open following the initial easing of COVID-19 lockdown rules, keeping track of who had visited premises became, and continues to be, very important in order to facilitate contact tracing. With the introduction of the UK’s official Test and Trace app, businesses in the hospitality sector became legally obliged to offer at least two sign in methods for their customers.

In practice, for many in the hospitality sector this has meant an official Test and Trace QR poster alongside an almost certainly non-GDPR compliant paper and pen. Major chains and independent businesses in the sector state that this is not a viable long-term approach but rather a needs must temporary solution. The desire is for a solution that integrates with their existing systems, is smoother for customers, beneficial for their business and GDPR compliant.

With our second lockdown underway, decision makers in the hospitality sector have time to research better solutions and, for those of us in the kiosk industry, we have the opportunity to provide these solutions.

 

Whilst traditional interaction with a kiosk is via a touchscreen we have the expertise and technology at our disposal to provide no-contact sign in options. Traditional touch screen systems will require extra sanitising and visitors may be reluctant to touch devices, particularly in a hospitality setting. We look at a number of ways a kiosk-based sign in system can work whilst requiring zero physical contact from the user, and evaluate their benefits and limitations.

 

Kiosk Software:

A kiosk based solution can make use of an existing, standard piece of hardware to display the customer-facing user interface. This could be an iPad / Android tablet kiosk, a larger format PC based kiosk or digital signage solution. This means we can provide new, innovative solutions without the need to invest heavily in new hardware designs.

 

Browser Based:

With a locked-down browser running on our kiosks we can provide solutions that can be rolled out regardless of hardware type or screen size. Similarly to the official Test and Trace posters, a customer-facing kiosk would display a QR code for customers to scan. When scanned, a form will be displayed on the customer’s phone which they can complete. When coded correctly, such a form can be auto-completed by the customer’s phone.

A system like this can be used as the primary sign in tool for customers with the Test and Trace poster being used as an alternate or complementary tool. The system can be integrated into existing systems such as ordering; can provide additional features such as staff attendance tracking (a requirement in the hospitality sector) and can also be used for staff to manually sign in customers much more securely. GDPR compliant automations can be included, for example auto-deletion tools to remove customer data after the required 21 day period.

Pros:

  • Can run on virtually any kiosk
  • GDPR compliant
  • Can be integrated with existing systems
  • No phone app required for visitors
  • One single web-based system to develop

Cons:

  • Customers enter their own details rather than having this done for them
  • Two QR sign in systems could cause confusion if kiosk placement is ill-considered

 

Face / Voice Recognition:

Face and voice recognition is now an advanced technology which many of us use daily. Hardware allowing for the use of this technology can be easily installed in most kiosks relatively inexpensively.

In the case of face recognition, a visitor would have to “enrol” their face and save their contact details. This can either before the visit or upon arrival by using their phone or a separate device. Signing in after the initial visit would then be very fast and very secure.

Realistically this is not the type of system that would be ideal for most settings. However it would be a great solution for members-only venues such as golf courses, private clubs and gyms. In such settings the speed and security would be highly valued and the initial enrolment could be much more easily managed. Adding in integrations with access control, booking and payment systems can create a very high-end solution that would benefit the venue well into the future.

Pros:

  • Fast sign in
  • Highly secure
  • No devices required by visitor
  • Improves brand image
  • Great potential for integrations

Cons:

  • Initial face enrolment could be time-consuming
  • Voice recognition could be difficult in busy or noisy areas
  • Development may be more complex

 

Hardware:

An alternative which would require custom hardware is to use a touch screen device that doesn’t require a physical touch. Instead the proximity of a user’s finger is sufficient to activate the touch screen buttons.

Whilst this is a really interesting solution it could be argued that this technology isn’t mainstream enough yet to be a realistic option. The public are now very familiar with signing in at a touchscreen as they are now a common site in doctor surgeries and corporate offices. As such there is rarely any confusion over how they work. However, add into the mix a new way of interacting with a screen and that confusion can easily reappear.

Having said that, if there was ever a better time to bring interactive screens like this into the mainstream, I can’t think of it. For manufacturers of this tech and those of us already using it or considering doing so, perhaps now is the best time to really push. 

 

Pros:

  • The visitor doesn’t have to use their own device
  • More hygienic than a traditional touch screen
  • Kiosk based sign-in is familiar to most people

Cons:

  • Custom and potentially expensive hardware required
  • New interaction methods can cause confusion
  • Possibility of visitors accidentally touching the screen

 

Staff kiosks:

If, for many, the current solution is a Test and Trace poster and a pen and paper there will be a large number of businesses in the hospitality sector simply looking for something better than the pen and paper. They won’t necessarily be looking for an additional way for customers to sign themselves in, rather a better way for their staff to sign their customers in.

For these businesses a staff-facing tablet based sign in system could be perfect. Tablet kiosks are small enough to be installed by most entrances without causing any significant problems. The member of staff greeting the customers can then sign the customers in upon arrival – only one person per group needs to be registered so this would not be a time consuming process.

In a restaurant, such a solution would also give opportunities for integrations and create a well recorded, smoothly managed tracking system. Customers could be signed in, a table could be registered to the customer / group and a member of staff assigned to the group. All this will help keep track of who has come into contact with whom and can provide useful insights to the business itself.

Pros:

  • Visitor has everything done for them
  • Inexpensive hardware
  • Highly secure

Cons:

  • Does not remove any onus from staff

 

Other Considerations:

Any of the above systems would require an administration interface. This allows input errors to be corrected, visitor details to be manually added for users unable or unwilling to use the public facing device and a way to export collected data in the event it is required. The administration systems for all of these would be web based so would function on any current device with internet access.

Visitor details should be deleted after a certain period in order to be compliant with GDPR. In the case of details kept for test and trace purposes, they should be kept for 21 days. A function to auto-delete visitor data after this period would therefore be highly advisable.

 

Conclusion:

This article is intended as a brief overview of some techniques that could be used to facilitate zero-contact sign in systems, their benefits and limitations. Whatever our feelings and opinions about them are, they are here to stay and we would do well to embrace them. People are less willing, and actively advised, against handling communal devices. The increase in the limit for contactless payments is evidence of this.

Our messaging, marketing and the synergy between our kiosk hardware and software is important. It is well within our power and ability as an industry to make interactive kiosks part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Hospitality is a key growth area for our industry and we should look at this as an opportunity to make further advances not as a threat to the advances we’ve already made.

 

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this subject:

Do you have a preferred method or a different process?

Are you working on or already providing a contact free sign in system?

Is this an opportunity for or a threat to our sector?

However you feel, I believe this is a conversation we need to be having.

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