Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day.
Yes, that’s a thing. That’s where the world is at.
Yet just 5% of people wash their hands long enough to destroy infectious germs, and around 33% of people don’t use soap when washing their hands, according to researchers from Michigan State University reported in the Journal of Environmental Health. Communicable diseases are transferred by touch, something that is concerning for both social and economic reasons.
Now what can we do to tackle this problem?
Celebrities and large organizations and corporations from The World Heath Organization (WHO) to McDonald’s have launched various campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of washing hands. Everyone from celeb chef Gordon Ramsey to Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton to the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has put out videos of themselves washing their hands. It’s cute but it is not enough – especially for hospitals, food production facilities, catering and the like.
Poor hand hygiene has long been a crucial if underappreciated issue, regardless of the coronavirus pandemic. It is, for example, a major factor in hospital-borne diseases. Not to mention the potential for contamination at meat-packing and other food-processing plants. And much more besides.
In short, having clean hands matters – possibly more today than ever before. Which is why tech companies have been working on more concrete solutions to ensure good hand hygiene by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and video monitoring. Over the last few years, a bunch of companies – from startups to well-established corporations – have occupied themselves with developing hand hygiene technologies.
Connectome.ai, a Russian company that brings together computer vision and AI, has developed a system that can be installed above sinks and taps to educate staff on how to wash their hands properly – and even make admission to a work area contingent on clean hands. Connectome.ai’s Direktiva.ai technology is already being used by Damate, a major Russian agricultural group; EMC, a leading private healthcare operator in Moscow; and other clients in the FMCG and various other sectors inside and outside Russia.
Fujitsu announced the development of Actlyzer hand wash movement recognition technology, which leverages AI and machine learning techniques to identify complex hand washing movements from video data captured by camera. Some of the other recent technologies include hand scanners for invisible signs of bacteria and viruses (developed by PathSpot), portable hand-sanitation devices (SwipeSense), and various units that ensure the right mixing of liquid concentrate with water and air (Smixin AG).
Recently AMMACHI Labs and University of Glasgow researchers developed a social robot called Pepe designed to influence young people’s handwashing behaviour.
And now one can wonder what happens if Pepe, the robot, and Schwarzenegger, the Terminator, cross paths at the bathroom sink. I think there’s an “I’ll be back” joke in here somewhere.
Happy Global Handwashing Day!