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4th March 2015

AES Product Innovation – Contactless Capacitive Sensing Water Valves

So many industries face challenges when it comes to sensing technology and risk of contamination from physical contact with devices and equipment. This is most prevalent in the medical profession, particularly in hospitals and public buildings where there is a high risk of transmitting disease. Most hospitals and clinics no longer use the conventional water faucet system in bathrooms and toilets, instead relying on taps with infra-red sensors or alternatively elbow- and knee-activated devices to reduce hand-contact points and decrease the spread of contamination.

Whilst these systems do help to reduce the transmission of disease somewhat, they have not been shown to do so 100% reliably. At AES we have developed a solution which can further improve the sanitation of medical buildings and mitigate the associated health risks.

AES’s contactless, automatic water tap design does not rely on sensors like many taps do but instead measures the capacitance around the faucet, determining whether or not there is someone standing in front of the tap from the change in field, and switching on the tap accordingly.

As there is no need for physical contact or even very close proximity to the tap, the chances of contamination are greatly reduced. We’re currently developing a next generation device which involves proportional control. The taps employ a contactless control system, meaning that the functionality of the tap goes beyond the binary function of simply switching it on and off which many current designs are limited to. By moving your hand in various ways you also have full control over variables such as the temperature and the water flow.

There is no need to worry about the sensor being too sensitive, as it is precisely calibrated to such a level that it will know when a person has approached the tap and will not be so sensitive that the slightest movement in the vicinity will set it off. Furthermore, the capacitive sensors employ auto-calibration technology in order to filter out anomalous changes in capacitance at the input. As a result, the performance of the system is less affected by conditions that may impair or prevent correct function in other similar devices. With auto-calibration, such things as dirt, humidity, extreme temperatures, obstructions and damages do not affect the device function.

As well as being a much more sanitary solution, it is a lot more efficient and reliable than current systems as it doesn’t rely on the functioning of sensors or switches, nor physical components which can break easily and need constant maintenance and cleaning. The reduced number of physical parts makes it suitable for use in prisons or public places such as leisure centres and motorway service stations, where there is often a high risk of equipment being vandalised or used inappropriately.

AES has developed both the technology and the IP required for this product and has taken it through every stage of the product design and development phase. We have already seen great success and high levels of interest in the product, having already received a large number of orders – the most recent of which was for over £45K!

This sensor technology does not only have applications for water taps – any industry in which there is a need for reduced physical contact would realise business value from the technology. Automatic sensing would have value in food processing for example, where employees working with food may need to operate machinery and equipment as hygienically as possible. The technology could also apply to music and lighting control.

Whatever your variables, the contactless technology we have developed will allow you to control them either at a binary level or – for the next generation – on a spectrum, without you having to touch anything. Contact AES at info@assemtron.com for more details on contactless water valves or read more about our product innovation.

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