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Don’t touch
371 Posts
Covid 19 has devastated the economy so perhaps in the interest of assisting in the mitigation of any similar reoccurrence, it might be prudent to consider minimising the the need to touch items to get them to function. This has been underway for quite some time where, for example, in heavily trafficked areas such as airports, faucets are electronically controlled. Maybe now is the time to regulate. I have been involved with design of licensed premises such as hotels and pubs for over 30 years. Budgets are often loosened for aesthetics and tightened for the functional side. Rarely would a design for automatic taps get client approval although it would do if they were mandatory. How daft is it to go to the expense of such items and then require a visitor to the toilets to pull a door handle to effect an exit?
it is good to see automatic operation of lighting becoming commonplace, probably due to building regulation requirements but I am sure that there are many other things that we could do to reduce the need to touch things to get them to work.
7 Replies
1761 Posts
A newspaper reporter recently observed that a good germ spreader is the Doctor's surgery electronic check in screen where all the ill have to touch the pad to check in.

2353 Posts
Expect a lot of very badly designed down to cost electronics, and strange EMC problems though. If there are to be regulations they need to be backed up by a requirement for emissions and immunity testing that would allow co-siting - it is not that long ago that I was being told about  a case in some very expensive London refurbishment where the taps ran whenever the automatic lights came on - the two systems shared a mains DB and the impulse from the lighting inrush was enough to dip the mains for a few microseconds, fooling the tap sensor electronics into registering hands in front when there were none.
The other related consideration is to make sure it fails safely when it goes wrong - if after a thunderstorm you cannot stop the loos flushing, or the reverse and all your water gets off for every  power cut, then it is going to be quite fun.
It is not at all insurmountable to have robust systems, rigorous testing and provision for a manual bypass of course,  but that adds to the cost,  and there is more to it than some makers of prefab kit seem to realise - look at the difficulty of getting proof of EMC compliance testing out of manufacturers of car chargers, and then imagine what it would be like for more complex systems, and the quality of some plumber's electrics is odd enough as it is.
694 Posts
and perhaps more to the point does society want to pay for all this improvement to save a small number of lives - I suspect we actually don't want the cost burden and a few thousand extra deaths a year is perfectly acceptable.

At the end of the day it's all about the cost - you could take a perceived shortage of face masks as an example - we could, at all times, maintain sheds full of PPE so it can be rolled out immediately when (or more likely if) required - but when CV19 is a memory, then you can bet a dollar on the fact that someone will question the billions being spent on preparedness when taxes are high and we can't deal with more immediate (eg education) - so, do people want more sure start nursery provision or a stack of duty gowns in a shed somewhere.

An example would perhaps be the peace dividend when we realized that the Third Shock Army wasn't going to roll down the Fulda Gap after all - so did we really need to be spending money on the problem (particularly on behalf of the French and Germans)


This issue should be overcome by making use of the adjacent hand sanitiser dispenser, but from observation not all registering do it.

Lisa Miles
1249 Posts
A newspaper reporter recently observed that a good germ spreader is the Doctor's surgery electronic check in screen where all the ill have to touch the pad to check in.


That's the trouble with touch screens. They're a huge spreader of germs! Tea/coffee vending machines (such as those in many offices) and PDQ machines in shops are another. 

You can get around the PDQ machines rather easily with contact less payments  (I haven't paid cash for anything since I embraced 'Apple Pay' a few years ago) but the coffee machine is another matter!!! 😉

However, I was thinking the other day, why can't you make vending machines voice controlled? "Coffee, white, one sugar.... please...." 😊 Or even app controlled where you can select your drink via an app on your phone, then scan the code at the machine to vend it. 😎 ☕

Denis McMahon
266 Posts
A newspaper reporter recently observed that a good germ spreader is the Doctor's surgery electronic check in screen where all the ill have to touch the pad to check in.


In my surgery the check-in screen has been turned off, probably due to this virus thing. One now needs to go to the reception window and announce one's arrival to a real person. Not exactly a new idea.

Oops, I almost forgot. One may still need to press a button to ring a bell to summon attention. Perhaps the bell should be actuated by the automatic door mechanism.

The light switches, in a building where I used to work, looked ordinary enough and functioned as expected. But they were part of a central lighting control system. The idea of this system, so I was told, was to provide a master switch so that at the end of the day's business, the care-taking staff could switch off all the lights in the building together.

The building was near an airfield and the trouble was there were EMC problems with aircraft radio. Sometimes, when an aircraft flew low overhead, the lights would go out and had to be switched on again.

The pity was that the caretakers never used the system in this manner. They preferred to go from room to room, checking that nobody was still inside, and switch off lights behind them as they locked up, thus marking their progress.

Technology can be great, but sometimes I think over-use of it is not the best way.

124 Posts
Many cruise ships have auto opening toilet doors or big touch buttons to be operated by elbows along with auto soap dispensers and taps. Mainly to try and reduce the spread of Winter Vomiting Sickness from the people who are incapable of using a hand wash gel when entering restaurants etc even when there is someone there trying to make them. 

As has been pointed out we have accountants in control, both at the manufacturing end (Value Engineering) and the the purchasing end (know the cost of everything and the value of nothing). So EMC issues and basic incompatibilities and short life spans are to be expected. Then when something fails everything stops as there is no plan B.  

I can't help thinking of Private Frazer "We're doomed, we're all doomed" 😀 well at least those of us who are  oldies probably are. 😒


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