The HoverTap sensor can detect the location of a user’s finger over a touchscreen – all without a camera.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way many people conduct themselves in public – especially when it comes to touching surfaces used by many others and mitigating the risk of infection.

That new way of life has given a University of British Columbia (UBC) life sciences start-up the opportunity to expand its horizons beyond the medical field. Vancouver-based NZ Technologies Inc. now hopes to bring its touchless control technology, originally used in operating rooms by surgeons, to the general public.

“When COVID hit last year around February, we were approached by many industry officials that said, ‘Look, you’ve already built and commercialized these touchless solutions for the operating room,’” says Nima Ziraknejad, founder and CEO of NZ Technologies. “They said there’s a big market for making elevator controls touchless, and that’s around the time where we have the idea to create HoverTap.”

The concept of NZ Technologies’ products is simple: they essentially use sensors to detect people’s hand motions close to a button or touchscreen interface, allowing people to “literally tap in the air” to hit switches that are an inch away physically.

The technology used in HoverTap, originally launched in a family of products called TIPSO, was intended to give surgeons operating on patients control and access to vital equipment and radiology imaging without needing to touch screens or buttons – which carries the risk of introducing whatever pathogens may be on device controls onto surgical instruments (and, ultimately,
patients’ bodies).

TIPSO – born out of a student-led project at UBC – has since made its way into healthcare institutions like Surrey Memorial Hospital. But Ziraknejad admits that concerns about spreading COVID in public spaces have opened up all new market areas for NZ Technologies, including the aforementioned elevator sector and other industries like airport logistics and office security.

“The application could be airport kiosks, gas station pumps’ keypads, banking machines, payment terminals – basically any screen that many people need to touch,” Ziraknejad says. “The elevator industry is the first to approach us, but airports have all kinds of screens that passengers need to touch. Another industry is the secured entry sector; the keypad you have for entry at office buildings, bathrooms, office spaces – those are the industries who have approached us.”

Now, with the advent of HoverTap, Ziraknejad confirms the company has talked with Vancouver International Airport about potentially using the devices, and the prospect of the new tech getting exposed to visitors around the world excites him greatly. More importantly, he noted, the attention that HoverTap gets on the public side may bring more business to TIPSO and the surgical/
medical side – as hospitals are also among those facilities now putting extra focus on touchless tech given sanitation requirements.

“Imagine 30 years ago when we didn’t have touchscreens,” Ziraknejad says. “Now everyone is using it. We are now in an era where we want to make touchless the new standard, and we want to bring people that tech in whatever application they need.”

Reported by: Chuck Chiang @chuckchiang3 – Trilingual multimedia journalist for print/online/radio/video. Specializes in Asia-Pacific relations with Western Canada.

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Dr. Nima Ziraknejad

Ph.D., P.Eng. Founder and CEO

An inventor by nature, I have devoted my life to technological innovation, taking sector-specific problems and transforming them into practical, commercialized solutions.

As CEO, I am responsible for leadership and operations at NZTech, which includes securing and managing the financing, and making decisions on all strategic activities. My role also extends to cultivating relationships in business, technological and financial spheres to grow business development and productivity.

Creating transformative change in the healthcare sector is my passion. I am constantly exploring new horizons and connecting the technologies we have invented to more practical applications in the medical field.

My passion and drive to develop new technologies – achieved by understanding users’ unmet needs – ensures that we attract highly-skilled experts to our team who have an important contribution to make and who know that something tangible will result from our collaborative efforts.

At NZTech, I have been instrumental in:

• Taking an R&D project to a commercialized medical product in just five years.
• Creating a footprint in the hospitals and an awareness around the advantages of touchless controls in the operating room.
• Securing $4M of funding from government and private investments.
• Forming and leading a team of 12 HQPs and staffs responsible for R&D, manufacturing, marketing, commercialization and customer support.