The inspiration behind HoverTap; the science behind it and its future applications

Small Business Canada

Dr. Nima Ziraknejad, Founder and CEO of Vancouver based NZ Technologies Inc.

Dr. Nima Ziraknejad, founder and CEO of NZ Technologies is a serial entrepreneur, a Professional Engineer, and an inventor and author of more than 40 international patents and journal publications. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a specialty in machine vision and robotics. He has built a track record of success in the past two decades, bringing products from R&D to successful commercialization in the mining, oil & gas, automotive, healthcare, and vertical transportation industries.

What’s your story behind NZ Technologies, quickly emerging as an industry leader in enabling touchless interactions and contributing towards keeping people safe from virus spread? 

We responded to the COVID 19 pandemic like many other tech companies by asking ourselves, “How can we use what we do, to stop the spread of the virus?”

Our touchless technology is already employed in the hospital surgical suite, which is perhaps one of the most medically sterile environments imaginable. Our patented TIPSOTM Beam and TIPSO AirPadTM products were developed to minimize the risk of infections and improve the workflow inside operating rooms. Using these unique products, surgeons are able to touchless interact with patient medical images and room equipment during surgery without the need to leave the patient’s bed or delegate the task to a technician or nurse (all leading to disrupting surgical workflow).

In response to the COVID 19 Pandemic, our team worked on re-engineering our flagship touchless product – the patented TIPSO AirPadTM to transform the public’s user experience of the most-confined and high-touch spaces that millions of people use every day, the elevator. This marks the invention of our patented and commercialized product, HoverTap™Lift, which transforms any existing high-touch surfaces (such as elevator buttons) into a contact-free interface to protect users from the spread of infectious diseases.

What do you have to say about your latest invention, the “HoverTap™ Lift”, a patented AI-powered technology that is transforming elevators with a contactless touchpad to replace traditional elevator call buttons and panels and make the elevator experience more hygienic?

After 2+ years of living in a pandemic, the habits of wearing face masks, social distancing, sanitizing our hands, etc. have become almost instinctual. We have developed a consciousness to remain as hygienic as possible with our day-to-day routines, but there are situations when we have to compromise and the elevator experience is one of them. Social distancing in a small space gets complicated and so is touching high contact surfaces like the elevator buttons when selecting floors. Even before the COVID 19 virus struck, one study showed that touching a standard elevator button to select your floor could expose you to 40 times the germs count transferred to your hand in comparison to touching a toilet seat in a public bathroom.

Our HoverTapTM Lift system is an AI-powered touchless interface, designed to enable finger tapping sensing for contactless control of traditional elevator buttons. It’s a natural fit for the elevator problem. The system has a set of novel sensor modules (which come in a picture-frame form factor installed on an LCD screen) and a controller loaded with real-time software that incorporates an AI algorithm for finger motion detection in the 3D volume. Together, the hardware and software allow accurate real-time 3D detection of users’ fingertips. As a complete solution, HoverTapTM Lift integrates with the existing panel inside the cabin for floor selection, while HoverTapTM Swipe operates as part of the hallway unit to call the elevator.

A passenger stepping into the elevator car doesn’t have to touch the HoverTap panel, they simply let their finger hover over the desired floor number over a small screen, AI does the rest. 

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As the HoverTap™ technology is already in use for buildings in Greater Vancouver providing housing support for families with children in need of essential care, to create a safer environment for the public, is it proving to be a great tool and are you able to achieve success through this technology? 

Our HoverTapTM Lift system has received tremendous positive responses from early users, the public, and the industry. Installing this technology inspires confidence in elevator passengers that the property is providing them with a safe environment. 

We first installed the HoverTap Lift system at the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver — a respected institution that provides housing support for families with children in need of essential care. The HoverTap equipped elevator at Ronald MacDonald House is one more measure to safeguard hospitalized children and their families.

Last year we also entered into a Manufacturing Collaboration Agreement with Dupar Controls, a leader in the design and manufacture of elevator control systems and push-buttons. 

With people getting back to their work and travelling and contactless technology becoming the new normal, what role the HoverTap™ technology can play in accelerating this adoption of touchless technology in public places? 

The Pandemic sparked a new level of awareness and apprehension about the use and design of public places. The world’s collective experience with COVID 19 will certainly influence the architecture of the future, and as such AI-powered touchless technology companies like NZ Technologies are stepping up to address the unmet need.  

We’re expanding the development and application of HoverTap installations for what is best described as “the crossroads of pedestrian traffic.”

Our goal is to bring touchless interactions to the general public, and touchless elevators buttons are just the tip of the iceberg. Our AI-powered HoverTap technology can transform any existing systems of common high-touch surfaces such as self-serving kiosks in retail stores, ticketing booths, keypads, fuel pump stations, and ATMs into a more hygienic and touchless experience for users. We are already working with our industry partners to make this a reality.

Wherever the day takes you, there will be public health safeguards, because now we know, there’s no end to the threat of harmful and easily spread viruses. Technology will intercede to prevent another pandemic.

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