Touchless security solutions are here to stay

YARMOUTH, Maine–“Touchless security.” This has become a major buzzword phrase — due to COVID, of course — as end user customers are seeking reliable, easy-to-implement security solutions that eliminate touch points. While some companies are designing new solutions, others are choosing to retrofit solutions to support this touchless world that is unfolding before our very eyes. Aiphone has begun to look at how it can retrofit its solutions so that they support touchless measures by integrating a sensor as part of its video intercom systems. 

Paul Hefty, technical sales and support engineer II, has been a part of Aiphone Corporation for approximately 35 years, during that time, serving in various roles. “I started building products in the back, but I got tired of burning my hands with the soldering iron, so I picked up the phone [to request a different job],” he told Security Systems News. “At this stage of the game, I’m involved with our tech group, supporting the customers, specing out jobs, etc. as well as interfacing with our engineering staff and working with the marketing group and sales team. My team and I are kind of the technical guys in between; we basically explain what tech is trying to tell sales and what sales is trying to tell the engineers. We’re the translators.” 

The main thing about Aiphone is the company’s reputation for reliability. In one of Hefty’s roles, he remembered receiving calls about Aiphone products that had been discontinued for 20 or 30 years. The caller would say, ‘hey, we’ve got this old system, can we add onto it because it still works?!’ “I was like, ‘you’re kidding me; it’s time to try something new,'” Hefty jokingly said, adding that reliability has always been a part of Aiphone’s DNA.

COVID interferes prompting touchless solutions Aiphone North America celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, honoring it’s Japanese roots by featuring the origami paper crane, symbolizing its commitment to longevity and success to their customers, in their celebration artwork. When COVID hit, Aiphone summoned their historical success to create a solution that was suddenly in demand.

“It was important to find a retro-fit piece and fortunately, our equipment is very forgiving in that manner,” Hefty explained. “Once the decision was made to address this [COVID and touchless solutions] quickly, a first-look method for making it work was developed.”  The day before Hefty spoke with SSN, he was thumbing through some new images of devices that are in the plans to come out from Aiphone, and he realized that six months ago, those images didn’t even have a touchless sensor on them.  “Engineering adapted as they were going, so the next generation of product that will come out will have this built into it, rather than having it be a patch or a retrofit type of module.” 

While waiting for these next generation products, Aiphone enables end user customers to retrofit their IX Series door stations with a touchless sensor, which eliminates ripping out and replacing equipment.  “The sensors are pretty straight forward,” he said. “The cool thing is, there’s a variety of them [sensors] out there, so you can get them in different shapes and sizes. While our intercoms are setup for outdoors, with touchless sensors, some of them are rated for outdoor use and some of them not so much.

So, it’s making sure there’s no false triggers.”  Power must be supplied to the sensor to provide a contact closure, but it’s no more complicated than a normal switch. To activate the sensor, people must be within inches, but it’s not like the days of motion detectors where a person would simply walk by and trip it.  “Depending on the unit, people must be within an inch or two; then depending on what it’s mounted to — if it’s in a stainless-steel enclosure, that will knock the read range down a little bit.” 

Post-COVID momentum of touchless security There will come a time when COVID is no longer such an intense threat and life will become whatever “normal” means to each individual person; however, due to the havoc it has caused, it will leave certain things seen as necessities in its wake, one of which is the concept of not touching anything.  “I think you’re just now seeing first generation [solutions] coming through,” said Hefty. “For the most part, it’s a ‘band-aid’ approach where it’s, ‘hey, let’s slap this on here’ type of mentality.”

He predicted, however, that at the next trade show, most companies will be showcasing a new product with touchless sensors built into it. “Instead of the normal call buttons to [physically] press,” he said, “there will be a touchless sensor there that can be used as a call button, [for example.]”  No matter what the future holds, Aiphone equates to reliability.  “We’re been doing this for a long time; we’ll continue to do it for a long time,” Hefty said. “Our goal has always been to give people [end user customers] the right solutions.” 

Reminiscing to when he worked Aiphone’s tech desk, the mantra was, “‘we want everybody to call us.’ If we have an Aiphone solution, great; if there’s not an Aiphone solution, we also want to be able to say, ‘this other brand over here does ‘it’ really well, go use those guys.'” However, this is where Hefty’s current role really comes into play. 

“Where there’s anything that’s a little bit different that a tech may not have a solution for, the sales team will reach out to me and my team, and we will find a solution,” he said. “Let’s make sure we get the customer the correct answer and make sure we find the best solution for them.

It’s all about relationships; it’s what’s best for people.” 

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