Alps Alpine Co., Ltd., presents a new proposal in the form of a touchless control panel for situations when touching is undesirable, not possible or not allowed in settings such as medical or nursing care or public facilities. Market research is currently underway with an eye toward commercialization in around 2021.
Downsizing and advanced functionality are aims behind recent replacement of switches with touch panels as the input and control technology for a wide range of devices – not only smartphones and car navigation systems, but also digital home appliances and security equipment. Devices with touch panels are also being introduced for tasks traditionally performed via communication between people or with writing, such as ordering at a restaurant, front desk operations at public facilities, and recording of clinical notes by medical professionals. Here the objectives are labor saving and greater efficiency.
Use of touch panels for input and control will continue to grow. However, we have discovered there are many situations where people feel either physically or psychologically uneasy about touching a panel because they wonder who else might have touched it, or because it is dirty, or their own hands are dirty.1 Visitors to medical facilities, for example, might be concerned about the risk of contracting a disease from an item because they do not know who has touched it. Some people might have a distaste for dirty surfaces on ticket machines in train stations or flush buttons on toilets in public facilities. Others might want to avoid operating a home appliance while eating sweets with their hands or while cooking in the kitchen. In situations like these, touch panels could potentially lose their convenience factor.
The touchless control panel proposed by Alps Alpine, while incorporating the advantages of touch panels, will reduce such uneasiness or aversion by providing safe and easy control along with peace of mind. An original high-sensitivity capacitive sensor detects the approach of a hand in a series of steps – detecting the presence of a hand within 10 centimeters from the panel; the actual position of the hand within 5 centimeters; and the positions of fingers within 3 centimeters. Detected data is processed using our own original algorithm to realize diverse forms of control based on the positions of, and gestures made by, hands and fingers. Recognizing there will still be people who wish to touch and operate controls directly, the panel also allows touch operation.
At CES 2020, the world’s largest electronics trade show, held in Las Vegas in January, Alps Alpine presented a solution incorporating this product. A demo set was used to show how a touchless control panel might be used to regulate air conditioning temperature and air flow settings, as well as adjust room lighting via ceiling lights and floor lamps and the opening and closing of curtains.2 The system is designed so features and information on the display change with the distance of the hand or finger and the type of operation. It also incorporates sound feedback, allowing intuitive operation even by first-time users. The response from show visitors who tried the demo was strong.
On the basis of positive comments received during CES 2020, we will strengthen marketing activities targeting a wide range of markets where hygiene considerations are required, such as medical and nursing care settings and public transport. Alps Alpine aims to commercialize the touchless control panel in around 2021.
1. As understood from an independent Alps Alpine survey of touch panel users
2. Visit the Alps Alpine YouTube page to see a video of the demonstration:
Alps Alpine Co., Ltd. On January 1, 2019, Alps Electric Co., Ltd. and Alpine Electronics, Inc. integrated their businesses and started out afresh as Alps Alpine Co., Ltd with 42,289 employees. Alps Alpine will steadily bring about synergies by drawing on the two companies’ advantages in core devices, system design and software development.
The new company will endeavour to create its own unique value for not only the automotive market, but also mobile devices and consumer electronics, as well as new sectors such as energy, healthcare and industry. For more information please visit
Alps Alpine Europe GmbH, a subsidiary of Alps Alpine Co., Ltd., was established in 1979. Since 2013 the European Head Office has been located in Munich and as such co-ordinates the Sales, Marketing and Product Engineering activities of our offices in Dusseldorf, Paris, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Gothenburg, Frolunda and Milan, as well as the production activities of our manufacturing site in Dortmund. Alps Electric Europe GmbH changed its name on 01.04.2020 to Alps Alpine Europe GmbH.