The HydroTap Touch-Free Wave from Zip Water is a first-of-its kind contactless solution that will help employers introduce COVID-safe environments at their workplaces.

As companies gradually transition back to working in offices, it has become imperative for managements to create COVID-safe workplaces so that their employees feel confident about returning to work.

According to a global survey conducted in July 2020 by market researchers Qualtrics, 74% of people working remotely through COVID-19 want employers to focus on taking action to make them feel confident about returning to work. In addition, 42% of respondents want their employers to focus on office hygiene when providing a pathway back to the office.

Furthermore, research conducted by commercial fit-out specialists, Aston stated that a person will come into contact with 43 different touchpoints on an average workday including the door to enter the building, the printer and the office coffee machine. This has left employers scrambling to find new ways to create contactless workplaces to minimise the possibility of transmission.

Keeping this in mind, Zip Water launched the HydroTap Touch-Free Wave, a contactless version of their flagship HydroTap that will help employers create COVID-safe workplaces. The popular HydroTap, which delivers instant boiling, chilled and sparkling water at the touch of a button is already a fixture in many workplaces in Australia and around the world.

Zip Water marketing and strategy director for Australia and New Zealand, Mike Abbott said the HydroTap Touch-Free Wave was developed to meet new emerging needs both in Australia and overseas.

“Back in April, we started to receive enquiries from some of our existing domestic customers asking whether we offered a contactless version of our HydroTap. When we received requests from our two key domestic specifiers in New South Wales and Queensland who said many Australian workplaces were approaching them for contactless solutions, we knew we had to get something to the market quickly.

“In response we conceived, designed and developed the HydroTap Touch-Free Wave. Since April, we have had over 40 enquiries from existing domestic commercial customers before it’s even hit the market.

“We’ve also received enquiries from international customers for contactless HydroTaps for their offices located in countries including the United States, China, Singapore, Germany and Italy. We’re generating such significant early interest because workplaces worldwide need to show they can be COVID-safe and there’s nothing else like it on the market.”

Zip Water was able to get the touch-free product to market in late 2020, within six months from initial concept – a process that would normally take up to a year.

“We’re proud of how quickly we’ve been able to develop the product, which delivers a real solution to a real-world problem,” Abbott added.

In order to get the HydroTap Touch-Free Wave to market within six months, Zip Water innovation manager Kevin Moult said the company drew on industry-leading techniques to develop a first-of-its kind solution using in-house proprietary sensor technology and deliver a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and prototype in record time.

“By using advanced manufacturing techniques, including 3D printing and rapid prototyping, we were able to achieve our first viable prototype in half the usual time.

“The biggest challenge we faced was fitting four infrared sensors into the tap head, which only has a diameter of 4.5cm, so that they didn’t intersect and confuse commands. If you think about other contactless technology, like sensor-driven handwashing or toilet flushing systems, they only need to fit one or two sensors into a much, much bigger space, all directed in the same orientation.

“We were also able to develop an innovative solution to deliver a contactless version of the boiling water safety lock found in all classic HydroTaps. We created the twin sensor activation command so that boiling water is only dispensed once two of the four sensors are engaged, which can be done only through a very intentional hand motion.

“This solution provides a fool-proof contactless answer to the boiling water safety lock and protects against workplace injury as a result of scalding, all while still minimising avoiding contact,” said Moult.

Zip Water manufactures the HydroTap Touch-Free Wave at their factory in Condell Park, Western Sydney. This gives the company complete in-person oversight of every stage of the product design and manufacturing process.