Safe & Secure: Touch Screen Hygiene in the Age of COVID-19

Published on
October 27, 2020
Rachel Melisa
Marketing & Brand Manager
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This is a recap of a webinar that took place on the 8th of October 2020. For more information on upcoming events, please sign up to our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.

Digital kiosks and public touch screens have been at the heart of the world's IoT boom. As the world continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, customers are changing their habits -- especially when it comes to germs and touching surfaces.

This presents a key problem: How can we rebuild consumer confidence in touch screens so they stay relevant? Presented by Darragh O'Connor, Kastus VP of Global Marketing.



meldCX:  Now joining me is Darragh O'Connor. He's the global VP of Marketing at Kastus technologies, which offers antimicrobial solutions for devices. We'll talk more about that later. How are you today, Darragh?

Darragh O'Connor: Yeah, I'm great, Rachel. I'm very, very good. How are you keeping yourself?

mCX: Yeah, yeah, I'm good. Just keeping at home these days.

DO: Yeah, me too. But I'm very excited for the webinar today.

mCX: On that note, tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background.

DO: Sure, Rachel. So I've been working for over 20 years, primarily in brand, commercial and trade marketing, but also with a lot of experience in digital and e-commerce as well. I began my experience in the beauty world, so I worked with L'Oreal over in the UK for over 13 years in a series of marketing and sales roles. I then joined Estee Lauder, and I was the European Marketing Director for two of the big Estee Lauder brands, with a big focus on e-commerce and retail. Post Estee Lauder I came back to Ireland and I worked in the Google team. I was in charge of three of the sales teams in the Branding sector. We were in charge of growing the digital revenue and the digital transformation with some of the world's biggest brands. Post Google, I then went back into the branding world and I worked for Transitions Optical, the world's largest Photochromic lens company. So a billion dollar brand, and I was in charge of marketing there for over two years at a global level.

Then towards the end of that time, I got a call from Kastus actually to join the Kastus Revolution. So I've not been with Kastus in just over two years. And in that time we've really built the brand, we've commercialized it, and we've rolled the brand all over the world. So it's a very exciting time for Kastus. So I guess to summarize my experience -- a lot of experience in brand-building, marketing, e-commerce and particularly retail as well.

mCX: So obviously, you've had lots of experiences working in the retail sector, which is very public facing, how do you think the current COVID-19 situation has changed customer behavior when interacting with public touch devices?

DO: Yes, it's actually an interesting one. I suppose the combination of my experience and what I've learnt over the last few years is that there's an interesting dynamic going on whereby retailers and businesses are investing in touch screens, and have invested billions in touchscreen technology for two reasons, actually. Primarily because consumers want us. We've all been there in that queue where we just want to do it ourselves, and I think that's the way the world works right now.

So consumers are asking for it, but also it creates a lot more efficiencies. And you're seeing a lot of businesses move towards: they're trying to reduce staff numbers and maybe put one or two people hovering around the retail space just to enable that process. So I think you're in a dynamic now where we all have to use touch screens in order to have a normal life, whether it's personal screens or shared screens.

And obviously, we've also seen some research. I'm sure you guys have seen it too, especially in this pandemic, people are reluctant to actually deal directly with people. So they are turning more towards screens now. So when they do go to the touch screens, they're actually looking for some peace of mind and reassurance that when they do touch the touch screen, that it is protected as it possibly can be.

mCX: Yeah, so on that note, tell us a little bit more about Kastus the company and how your technology can help address those needs.

DO: Since 2014, Kastus have been making a very unique, globally patented coating technology that's both antimicrobial and antiviral. And really, as a company, we see no reason why every touchscreen in the world shouldn't have a protective coating. Our ultimate goal is to become recognized as the world standard that people look to for peace of mind when using a touchscreen. Now we offer a portfolio of products, from screen protectors and touch screen glass, also even to coating solutions for glass and ceramic manufacturing. Now, what that means in the touchscreen world, and that's why we're talking today, is that customers have a solution for new devices.

And we've recently now launched a unique tempered glass screen protector, which is both antiviral and antimicrobial, which is actually perfect to retrofit to existing screens, which is in the field. So perfect for the current pandemic, like we discussed. But I'll go into that a little bit more of that later.

So in terms of our value proposition, just to walk you guys through that. Our coating technology is independently proven to global ISO standards, to kill up to 99.99% of surface bacteria. And recently, it's also been proven to be effective against human coronavirus and a host of other everyday hard to fight viruses such as influenza A and hepatitis A. Kastus as a company, we're experts in the field of antimicrobial and antiviral protection, and our coating is truly unique.

In fact, today we have 44 global patents which are granted and pending, which nobody else can say that. Now, our company didn't magically spring up as a response to the current pandemic. It's what we do and it's what we've been doing for years. So thinking again about what's unique about us: we are the world's only light-activated antimicrobial technology that's activated by natural light. Our coating also works in the dark, thanks to our proprietary tech, which is embedded in our technology. So effectively, Kastus is always on and is working 24/7. In fact, a recent endorsement of our leadership, you can see there on the top right, besides the EU symbol, is that Kastus was selected among a host of thousands of companies to be awarded the European Commission grants to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and support recovery in Europe. So we've been recognized at the very top in Europe as part of the solution.

What I'd also like to say is that unlike some antimicrobial products, all of our performance is independently tested and certified to global ISO and ASTM standards. And we can back every single claim that we make. And finally there you can see in the bottom right, Kastus -- we're building a global premium brand that we want the world to see us as a symbol of proven protection. Now, as an example, just to see how we were endorsed, Kastus were recently featured on prime time US CNBC TV, on a show called the Advancements Show and is hosted by Ted Danson. This show was actually shown in the US and on partner networks all over the world, so it was an amazing platform for our brand. We're really, truly building global brand recognition.

So I'd say we're going to talk about it quite soon, but before we talk about how Kastus brings peace of mind to interactive touch screens, you can take a short look at our technology and action. So, Rachel, I'm going to play that video and we can share it to the audience now.

(Skip to minute 05:53 for the video)

mCX: Thanks for that, Darragh, gives us a little bit more insight on what Kastus does and the products you make. At the core of it, though, can I ask you, how does Kastus antimicrobial technology actually work on the touchscreen?

DO: Yes sure, no worries at all. So what I can do is before I go into exactly the detail of your question, I think it's probably worth sharing with the audience how Kastus is made and applied because that question comes up a lot, actually.

So first of all, Kastus is produced in Ireland as a liquid coating. And now this coating solution is then sprayed on during manufacturing to the surface of the cover glass or the screen protector. The next stage then is that once it's been sprayed on, it's baked into the glass via a furnace at temperatures over 600 degrees Celsius. And what happens is this particular process, it physically bonds and locks in the coating at the nano level -- so the glass of the screen surface. Effectively what happens then is once it's applied and the coating, the Kastus coating is invisible to the eye and that glass is now transformed into an always-on antimicrobial and antivirus surface.

So the next step, then we explain how it's applied. So once it's actually on the glass and how does the technology work, which is coming back to your question. So the primary method of activation of the Kastus technology, as I've said earlier before, is natural light. And here's how it works. And so as light hits the surface, it creates a continuous cloud of what's called reactive oxygen species (ROS). And as soon as any bacteria, viruses hit the surface, they're immediately set upon by these ROS.

And it's actually a double action, which is very unique. Not only to these radicals or these ROS break down the surface bacteria, they also prevent its multiplication, which is the big issue. If you take E. coli, for example, E. coli can actually multiply every 30 minutes. So the fact that once E. coli would hit our surface, it stops multiplying is really a big deal. And these ROS radicals continue to attack the membrane of bacteria and essentially they bash it until it's ruptured.

Now our coating works 24/7 so that even when there's no light presence, as I said before, Kastus contains a patented ingredient that continues to fight the surface bacteria in the dark. But essentially, as I said in the beginning, primarily it's natural lights. And when there's no light presence, the good news is that the coating continues to work.

mCX: What types of bacteria is Kastus effective against?

DO: Yeah, sure, that's a great question, we get that all the time. So you can see there on the slide, it's really a number of reports from independent labs all over the world which independently verifies what and what we can do. So if you think about the types of bacteria and viruses we're effective against, as we've seen at the beginning, our technology has been independently proven to be effective against human coronavirus, as well as surface bacteria such as SA and E. coli. And recently, over in the far right hand-side there, you can see under Eurolab, we've also recently received independent confirmation that our coating technology kills 99.6% of a host of tough to fight bacteria of these everyday viruses. Some of the names you will be familiar with, such as influenza A, hepatitis A, also Murine norovirus. So a host of viruses which everyone will be familiar with.

Now, our performance has been proven using global standards such as ISO in multiple labs around the world. So everything that we do, we can stand behind. It's also worth noting that our coating has been rigorously tested by the Eurofins lab in Germany and is proven to be non leaching. By non leaching, what I mean by that is that our coating doesn't leach into the environment and is totally safe for human interaction and also the environment. So when you see the host of reports that you can see, you see everything that we've done. And what we can confidently say is that everything that we do is independently backed up and we're happy to share any of those reports if any of your customers or any of your partners would like to see them.

mCX: On that note, Darragh, can I just touch on the coronavirus claims? So how did you and your team test that?

DO: So the coronavirus claims -- so you see on the far left hand-side there? We worked we partnered with an independent lab called Nelson Labs. So they're actually a global lab, they're actually based in the US. So we asked them to put together an independent test to verify that. The approach they came back with was a test called the ASTM E1053 test, which effectively tests our coating on a surface and for 10 minutes. So they would have compared our coated surface versus an uncoated surface and they would have applied coronavirus to that particular surface. What they found was that after 10 minutes that the Kastus surface had a very, very high kill rate versus the uncoated surface where they didn't see any change at all. So that's really how we did it. And Nelson labs, if you look them up, they're one of the biggest labs in the world and are globally respected.

mCX: Yeah, that's amazing, because lately doing the COVID-19 hysteria, we've seen many, many companies make these antimicrobial claims. So what do you think makes Kastus technology unique compared to the other antimicrobial solutions in the market?

DO: Yes sure, no worries at all. But first of all, what you can see is that, as I mentioned before, our value proposition is totally unique. I'm going to talk about the technology.

Now, in the antimicrobial world, typically our main competition will be the likes of silver-based technologies or as light-activated technologies that rely on UV alone for activation. Sometimes these are branded, sometimes they are not at all. But if I tell you, first of all, about the most important difference, and I know, Rachel, that we touched on that in the beginning. No other coating technology we've seen can offer double protection against both viruses and bacteria.

So what I mean by that is you see a lot of the competition out there. They claim antimicrobial or antibacterial effectiveness. But to date, we haven't seen anyone who can actually claim antivirus and anti-bacteria. So that's a massive difference versus anybody else. The other thing that I can say as well is that, you see there on the right-hand side in terms of the natural light activation, our company is the only primary light activated coating, which is activated by natural light and light-activated. Again, you may see other technologies out there and your antimicrobial and they claim to be light activated. Now the big difference is that those other companies, in order to work, the coating, actually needs exposure to a UV light source such as a lamp. So you may see on a kiosk, (there is) a mini lamp on top of it, or I may see in a toilet bowl, a UV lamp on there. Now Kastus works effectively indoor and outdoor, because it works in natural light, which means it's much less hassle to integrate.

So if a company wanted to bring in Kastus, they wouldn't need to integrate any kind of a UV lamp in order for it to work. So I think that's a huge difference and that's totally unique around the world. Now, as I mentioned before, our coating is catalytic and unlike silver, it's non leaching and which means it doesn't leave the surface. So this is very, very good news for the environment, but also in terms of longevity, which you can see there at the top right. And the reason why it's so good from a longevity point of view is that, as I mentioned, Kastus is primarily powered by light and air, and both of these fuel sources are technically infinite. So as long as the surface remains intact and our coating will continue to work on and on. And this is, again, unlike silver-based coatings, which I mentioned before. And how that works is that the silver needs to leave the surface in order to poison the bacteria.

So by definition, if the silver or the other metals are leaving the surface and these metal-based fuel sources will ultimately run out and have their effectiveness reduced over time. So because Kastus fuel source is infinite, you're not going to see the same reduction over time. And therefore our longevity is much more effective. The further point, I suppose, to expand on that is that as our technology is actually is what's called a photophysical process, whereby we effectively bash the bacteria until the DNA is broken down.

And what this means for Kastus is that the bacteria -- it actually can't build up any immunity to the Kastus process. Now, if you compare that to the metal-based technologies which operate by poisoning, any bacteria which is not killed by this poisoning process, can ultimately build up resistance and become stronger and actually form into potentially a superbug. So big difference, I think, which is worth calling out versus silver and other metal-based coatings is that Kastus is actually part of the solution to improving the AMR or antimicrobial resistance crisis. Which if you Google online, most experts actually believe that the AMR crisis is going to be a bigger killer than cancer by 2050. So Kastus is definitely part of the solution on that.

Finally, what I say there on the durability aspect is that Kastus coating is not designed to leave the surface once it's locked in, it's extremely durable and is designed to last a lifetime of the substrate. So really, that's in a nutshell, that's everything that we do. I think the big takeaway, as I said at the beginning, is that we have the effectiveness against viruses and bacteria, whereas the main competition will just be effective against bacteria.

Our engineers have managed to take all of our technology and they've figured out a way to coat a very, very thin screen protective glass with our technology. So you can see there, just on the left-hand side, are the key benefits of our products, and then I'll talk to you about the differences versus, I suppose, other competitors out there who have a screen protector-type device.

So the new range of products that we have, first of all -- the tempered glass as opposed to films. They really are a world first. The big difference really for us versus somebody else is that our screen protectors are commercial, and they can be made to bespoke sizes from 4"  up to 34" in diameter. So very, very varied in terms of the offering. To our knowledge, there's no other solution in the markets which combines this overall package, which is a tempered glass screen protector in these larger sizes, which offers both antimicrobial and antiviral.

The big benefit for our tempered glass versus say, the likes of a film, is numerous. But the real stand-outs will be on the right-hand side there. So as I said before, any film technology is normally  silver-based or other metals, and so it will be antimicrobial only. Kastus is antiviral and antimicrobial. In terms of the efficacy, we have all of our claims backed up by ISO and ASTM, and it's not always the case with some of the competition out there.

I mentioned before about polymer glass versus tempered glass. Tempered glass has a much much higher scratch resistance. You can see that Kastus has what’s called a resistance rating of 9H, versus typically other plastics or films with a resistance rating of 2-3H. What that means in real terms is that Kastus is much more durable and much more scratch resistant than say, a film or other types of screen protectors.

One of the big issues we’ve heard from our competition is that screen protectors tend to be a bit hazy -- transmission wouldn’t be as clear, so typically it would be a 10% haze. Kastus is effectively visibly clear, with less than 1% haze impact.

We’ve talked before about the durability and longevity, not only because the fact that it’s tempered glass but also the fact that it’s not silver-based process or a metal-based process, so our coating is designed to work on and on.

And we talked about the eco-friendly aspect versus silver -- the fact that we can be part of the superbug solution.

And then finally, I would say as well, looking at the competition out there, Kastus is really investing in a brand. We invest not only in promoting a brand but we also create materials to help customers in the field as well. And you compare that with a lot of products out there which are very much Me Too products which are not patented, and definitely wouldn’t be investing in a global brand in a way that we’re doing.

mCX: Yeah that’s amazing. Lot’s of product differentiation between Kastus and normal screen protectors. But, can I just ask, how do we put on Kastus screen protectors? Is it just the same as putting on any screen protectors?

DO: Yeah that’s a great question. In fact, instead of me showing you a slide, what we’ve actually done is put together a short video -- which I’d like to show you now.

(Skip to minute 18:14 for the video)

mCX: Very easy to put on, huh! Just like putting on any screen protectors on your phone or on an iPad. Last question I have for you, Darragh, what sort of different use cases or environments do you see Kastus antimicrobial technologies having the most value in?

DO: Yeah, absolutely. So I think the beauty about the Kastus technology, and even the products that we have, whether it's the cover glass that we offer or the screen protectors, which you just saw, is that there's really no limits to the industries. Like the everyday interactive moments that we all experience, that Kastus can possibly influence. So that could be ordering food in your favourite quick service restaurants, being at the casino, checking out your grocery shop, buying tickets for your daily commute, and of course, not forgetting all your personal devices from phones and tablets to wearables. So really, Kastus can actually be part of the solution to better protect all of those different screens all over the world. There really are no limits. So I would actually ask the audience the question in the new normal world is: it's not why Katus, but actually why not Kastus?

mCX: I love it! Why not Kastus? Folks, that's all we have for today with Darragh.

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