With millions of fingers operating kiosks daily to rent movies, pay bills, check in at doctor's offices and check out at stores, kiosks are a breeding ground for communicable diseases. In fact, a 2011 Kimberly-Clark Professional study exposing the dirtiest surfaces with which Americans come into contact, named ATMs, vending machines and parking kiosks as top offenders.
Trained hygienists swabbed more than 350 surfaces throughout U.S. cities and analyzed them for levels of adenosine triphosphate, which signals the presence of animal or vegetable bacteria, yeast or mold cells. Any object with an ATP of 300 or higher is considered to have a high risk for illness transmission, researchers said in their report. The only surfaces that proved dirtier than ATM buttons (40 percent), parking kiosks (35 percent) and vending machine buttons (35 percent) were gas pump handles, mailbox handles and escalator rails.
"The likelihood for illnesses to transfer from the objects that people use every day like ATMs and parking meters is eye-opening," Brad Reynolds of Kimberly-Clark Professional, said in the report. "These findings indicate that illness-causing germs are everywhere and have the potential to travel with you into your office space."
|SeePoint offers its AEGIS
Microbe Shield antimicrobial
technology for its freestanding,
desktop and wall-mounted kiosks
It's likely that as self-service kiosks become even more mainstream, consumers will grow increasingly concerned about picking up germs along with their cash or airplane tickets. Short of wearing gloves when operating kiosks, there are a couple ways that deployers may be able to put users' concerns to rest.
Protecting kiosk users
Two common ways to keep germs off kiosks, said Sheridan Orr, who has worked several years in the kiosk manufacturing industry, are to apply an antimicrobial paint to each machine and to attach a hand sanitizer holder to the kiosk to encourage hand washing.
However, some companies are getting a little more in depth with their germ fighting. Take for example SeePoint Technology's new AEGIS Microbe Shield antimicrobial technology. The company developed the coating for its freestanding, desktop and wall-mounted kiosks. When applied by trained technicians early in the manufacturing process, it helps protect the units from cross-contamination by a wide variety of bacteria and fungi, SeePoint executives said in a free whitepaper published on KioskMarketplace.com.
The coating, which covers the kiosk and monitor, provides a permanent, protective shield that kills 99.4 percent of all microbes, including the bacteria found in health care facilities, according to the paper.
Microsoft is another company that may soon offer another kiosk-cleaning option. In 2010, it applied for a patent for a self-cleaning touchscreen but hasn't yet unveiled the technology.
"Even if a touchscreen associated with a public kiosk was cleaned on a daily basis, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of people interacting with the device between cleanings, creating a significant gateway to transmitting illness," the patent stated.
Microsoft's patent describes a way for devices to have UV LEDs alongside backlight LEDs. The technology would use proximity sensors to activate a sterilization process across the touchscreen to ensure it is cleaned when not in use.
Only time will tell, however, if the technology will be developed as Microsoft refused to comment on the status of the project. Instead it said this in an email to KioskMarkeplace.com:
"Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice. Not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product."
How do you keep your kiosks germ free? Leave your comments below.
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.