It is technology that seems like it is out of the future - a cellphone app that controls public elevators and opens doors.
A hands-off and touch-less approach, an Ottawa tech company has designed an app and system, which can open and operate specially adapted doors and public elevators, using your own smartphone.
"No one wants to touch buttons anymore," says Ke Wang, President of Protodev Canada and the inventor of "Contactless Access."
He explains the concept is actually quite simple, "Essentially, it’s an app that allows you to activate buttons in elevators or those handicap buttons with your phone, rather than actually touching it."
The app is called "Contactless Access", and may help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wang says it is something that got its start a couple of years ago as a tool to help with accessibility.
"I’m in a power wheelchair myself. So, when I go into shops and stuff like that, it’s a bit of a pain in the butt to open doors. Sometimes when there is a button, usually it’s covered by something else."
He saw the need to open doors remotely, but it was an elevator at Carleton University that needed a solution.
Dean Mellway is an accessibility advisor with Carleton University, and says a tight elevator posed a challenge; students would require help.
"If a student has a high level of disability/quadriplegic, in a very large wheelchair, they would roll into that elevator and wouldn’t be able to reach the buttons."
The app solved that problem. It can now be used to help stay contact-free when operating elevators or doors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this technology is being piloted for use to allow safe access to elevators, not just to improve accessibility.
Canada’s largest airport is using the tech in six elevators on a trial basis.
"What it is done in a pandemic environment, is given us another way to help create a more touch-less and frictionless airport," says Robin Smith, spokesperson for Toronto’s Pearson Airport.
"Here at Toronto Pearson, we’ve made a commitment to try any advanced or innovative technological solution that could have a positive impact for the health and safety of our airport community."
On Wednesday, the technology was installed at select properties owned by the National Capital Commission in the ByWard market. They plan to expand this to other locations also.
"Our initial interest was U.A. (Universal Accessibility), but it’s expanded to COVID as well," says Bill Leonard, National Capital Commission Real Estate Director.
"If you can control those doors with your cellphone, it just makes these stores; these businesses, and these buildings that much more accessible."