There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our lives. One of the most important changes is that “the distance between people has become farther.” Because based on the requirements of epidemic prevention, only maintaining sufficient social distance and reducing or even avoiding direct “contact” between people is the key to cutting off the chain of virus transmission.
But human beings are a group of animals after all. With the development of society, there are more and more connections and interactions between people. In order to maintain the normal operation of the whole society, there must be a way to bridge this kind of The sense of distance due to “unreachable”. “Contactless technology” also came into being.
In fact, contactless technology is not a single technology, but a comprehensive intelligent technical means to achieve such a goal: to ensure a service or interaction (such as transactions) as normal, even more efficiently and at lower cost.
From the above definition, it is not difficult to see that the essence of contactless technology is an automated (or intelligent) process. To put it bluntly, it is to let machines do things that people used to do in order to reduce the density or contact of people. Frequency.
There have been many such technological attempts before, such as unmanned stores that were popular in the past few years. However, at that time, most of the motivations for exploring this new type of unmanned, non-contact application were based on cost reduction and efficiency improvement; but now, due to the impact of the new crown epidemic, health and epidemic prevention has become a new “new” superimposed on the original needs. Just need”, which provides new ideas and new business opportunities for previous explorations, and has also become a propellant for the development of non-contact technology.
In what application scenarios will contactless technology take root in the epidemic or post-epidemic era? Which enabling technologies will win new development opportunities? Next, let’s explore it together.
Logistics and Distribution
Whether it is online shopping or O2O services such as takeaways, in the past business processes, couriers were an indispensable “media”. open their physical and intellectual labor. However, under the new crown epidemic, the nature of the work of couriers determines that they have a higher probability of being infected, and they may also become the “media” of virus transmission… Therefore, for self-service express cabinets, vending machines, and automatic delivery vehicles The development of contactless logistics pacing solutions and products has also become a hot topic, and many previous concepts are becoming reality.
To replace the role of couriers in the past, these contactless logistics and distribution solutions themselves need to simulate the functions of “people” as much as possible. Taking a “fixed” self-service express cabinet/vending machine as an example, it needs to include at least the following functional modules:
HMI man-machine interface: user interacts with information
Authentication: verify the user’s identity
Mobile payment: support common payment methods
Communication interconnection: exchange data with the cloud through wired or wireless networking
If it is a mobile delivery vehicle, drone and other equipment, it is necessary to take into account the needs of movement, navigation, obstacle avoidance, etc. to ensure that the items are delivered safely and accurately. If this is in an open environment, the technical difficulty will be higher.
In general, the prospect of contactless logistics and distribution is promising, but due to the relatively complex business processes and application scenarios, in the short term, it will mainly focus on the exploration of prototypes and business models, which is still far from large-scale applications. However, in this process, products and technologies such as high-performance application processors (such as processors that support graphical HMI), wireless communication modules (including local and wide-area connections), and environmental sensors will still have a pull that cannot be ignored. effect.
Offline shopping is a scene of high traffic density and interaction frequency. The focus of contactless technology is mainly focused on shopping guide and payment.
The traditional shopping guide is completed by the full-time staff of the merchant, including a comprehensive introduction to the product information. Under the contactless requirement, the product information can be associated with an NFC Electronic tag attached to the product. Customers only need to touch the tag with an NFC mobile phone to obtain relevant information and complete self-service shopping.
If you think the experience of NFC electronic tags is not cool enough, then the immersive shopping guide based on AR technology may make your eyes shine. Whether it’s clothing selection or makeup audition, an AR “magic mirror” can simulate the effect of actual wear or makeup by customers, and give suggestions for selection according to the actual situation of customers, which not only avoids the need for shopping guides. Direct contact, you can also try more possibilities, have some fun. Such a platform can be deployed in offline physical stores or evolve into online apps. Because it can reshape the relationship between people, goods and fields in offline stores, it is quite subversive, so it is regarded as a new outlet .
In terms of payments, contactless mobile payments based on QR codes or NFC are now commonplace. However, both of them belong to the category of “near-field” payment. If you want to complete the payment over a longer distance, you need to introduce new technical solutions.
UWB ultra-wideband is an important candidate technology. Because it can provide centimeter-level accurate and secure ranging and positioning, UWB can be used as a highly personalized and recognizable electronic tag, which can be sensed by settlement and payment terminals in stores at a distance of one meter or more. When the customer with the UWB electronic tag approaches, the payment can be completed without manual intervention. The whole process does not require the customer to do anything, and it is almost “take it and leave”. And based on this label, more personalized contactless services can be derived in the retail industry, which has a huge room for imagination.
Although RFID and vision solutions are also constantly evolving in terms of contactless, non-near-field smart payment, as UWB becomes the standard for more and more mobile phones, it is conceivable that its penetration in the payment field should be faster. .
In traffic, security, smart buildings, public places, and other scenarios with high traffic flow, it is necessary to analyze, identify, and control the flow of people passing by. The solution developed for this purpose not only needs to achieve no contact to reduce human input, but also needs to be reliable and efficient, otherwise there will be crowds gathering, which will bring health and safety hazards.
In the field of urban transportation, although NFC is already a commonly used solution for entry and exit gates, the technology still has limitations in terms of traffic efficiency and operating distance, and congestion often occurs during commuting peak periods. Therefore, in recent years, people have begun to consider introducing UHF RFID technology, which has a longer working distance and was previously used for item monitoring, into traffic gates. The specific method is: integrating HF (NFC) and UHF two RFID technologies in traffic cards, The gate channel of this dual-frequency card is usually open, and the gate will be released as long as the valid UHF credentials in the card are detected “in the air”, and passengers can directly pass through the gate without manually swiping the card, thus increasing the peak period. throughput.
In terms of people flow management, machine vision is also an efficient solution, and with the improvement of hardware performance and software algorithms, especially the introduction of machine learning, the development is extremely rapid. In addition to supporting the face authentication of a single object, machine vision can also quickly capture and recognize multiple face targets in a high-traffic environment. On this basis, with the addition of remote non-contact IR temperature measurement technology, a complete set of epidemic crowd management solutions can be formed.
In privacy-sensitive scenarios, the application of vision solutions may be limited. At this time, millimeter-wave radar sensors are a good alternative technology. Although it is impossible to obtain intuitive images, millimeter wave radar sensors can sense high-precision data and information such as the direction, speed, distance, and position of moving objects, and can even capture subtle details such as breathing and heartbeat without contact. Action, which also allows smart devices to obtain sharper, spaced “insights”.
Avnet’s Radar Sensor-Based Gesture Recognition Solution
The reduction of human-to-human contact means an increase in the opportunity for people to interact with machines (smart products). Therefore, in all contactless solutions, natural and efficient human-machine interaction (HMI) has become the focus.
At present, the mainstream graphical HMI based on touch screen still inevitably uses the same HMI device for different users, resulting in indirect contact. Therefore, the two contactless HMI technologies of face recognition and voice recognition have become the focus of everyone’s attention. Some data show that in 2020, the shipment of face recognition access control equipment will increase by more than 50% year-on-year, which is a significant increase from the 14% growth rate in 2019. Some analysts say that this is mainly due to the non-contact demand generated by the new crown epidemic.
It is worth noting that in order to make the contactless human-computer interaction smoother, a combination of multiple technologies is often adopted. For example, not long ago, NXP demonstrated a solution for dual recognition of face and voice on a single MCU (i.MX RT 106F/S cross-border MCU). Based on this solution, NXP describes a typical application scenario in building automation – when you walk into the elevator, the elevator will quickly “recognize” which floor employee you are through face recognition, and then the elevator will Asking you if you want to go to the office on a certain floor through voice interaction, you don’t need to press the floor button manually, you can command the elevator master to take you to the exact floor through the voice question and answer… This seamless, contactless HMI, Undoubtedly, it can be quickly copied to other fields.
To sum up, the new crown epidemic has forced the direct physical distance between people and people to be pulled away, and with contactless technology and solutions as a link, we will find that the relationship between people and people will become more in many scenarios. Close, this is also a gift from technological progress. Although in the context of the epidemic, the arrival of this contactless era is a bit “forced”, but from another perspective, AR, machine vision, voice interaction, UWB, NFC, RFID, millimeter-wave radar sensors… all kinds of technologies can come In this era, brushing your own sense of existence can be regarded as an unexpected joy.