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The Electronics Industry Responds to COVID – Part 4

We’ve now come to the end of set of posts I’ve been doing that summarizes EDN Aspencore’s series of interesting and informative articles on the response that the electronics industry has been making to the coronavirus crisis.

My first post covered Majeed Ahmad’s “sneak peek” at the design ecosystem being built up around helping us get through the pandemic. Bluetooth technology, especially when used in bracelets, was the topic of the second entry in my series. I then addressed technology used in social distancing. This post covers the articles on touchless control panels and wearables, which our touchless in their own right, if you don’t factor in that they’re touching you, as well as the final article, which gets into molecular test technology. Anyway, here goes.

In Touchless control panels facilitate germ-free interactions in public places, Rich Quinnell discusses how engineers are harnessing existing technology to build solutions that will help us avoid pushing the button in the elevator, or choosing our menu items in a fast-food kiosk.

Holo Industries is putting hologram technology to good use by enabling devices to “project a floating image of the controls that the user can activate and senses the user’s fingers as they “touch” these mid-air controls. Holo’s solution isn’t being built from scratch. It uses a projection plate from Asukanet that’s been around since 2017.

This plate uses a transmissive dihedral corner reflective array to project an object’s image into space above the plate. The image is optically “real,” meaning that the light coming from the mid-air image travels to the eye in the same way that light from a physical object would travel…To the viewer, this appears as if the physical object were floating in space, allowing one to look at it from various angles to see around the sides and even to photograph it.

It also employs a touch sensor, based on IR emitters and receivers, from Neonode Technologies that detects where the user’s fingers are and how firmly they’re “pressing.”  This is even old tech, available since 2014.

Holo Industries added their own magic to the mix to pull it all together.

That’s the power and challenge of systems design: combining diverse elements developed by someone else into a functional solution to problems the element designers may never have imagined.

Yoelit Hiebert, in Can wearable devices help detect COVID-19 cases?, focuses on the Oura Ring used by the NBA and WNBA in their bubbles to keep their athletes COVID-free. (We had a post on this topic in July.) Yoelit goes into some depth on the technology, which makes for an interesting read. Whatever role the Oura Ring has played in its success, by all accounts basketball has done an excellent job of conquering COVID. By no means perfect, but all things considered, quite good.

Achieving fast, accurate patient diagnoses with molecular test technology, by Connor Connaughton and Eduardo Bartolome, covers “how molecular diagnostics work and what components can be used in the main building blocks of the analyzers required.”

There are a number of different ways to detect a virus. Molecular diagnostics “looks for know segments of DNA specific to the suspected infectious agent.” In their article, Connaughton and Bartolome describe how molecular diagnostics work. RNA/DNA is extracted and, if there’s not enough target DNA detected on the first pass, the DNA is amplified via cloning and multiplication.

There are a number of hardware building blocks that go into making all this work – all pretty complex stuff. (As you can imagine.)

The coronavirus is going to be with us for a good long time. And lurking around the corner, somewhere, somehow, lurks yet another pandemic. The electronics industry jumped in fast to help us conquer COVID, and the work that’s being done will hold us in good stead in the future.