Edmonton firm to add monitoring system to keyboards

Edmonton-based Cleankeys Inc. is working on a new version of its flagship cleanable keyboard aimed at letting hospitals automatically track and monitor how effectively their keyboards are being sterilized.

The company released the second version of its hygienic, wireless keyboard in early 2010, selling it primarily to medical and dental offices. In addition to letting users rest their hands on the touch sensitive keyboard, the device is outfitted with a trackpad and small key depressions that allow for fast typing and easy cleaning.

The company said it has sold more than 6,000 units since the first release.

Cleankeys CEO Randy Marsden said the keyboards have been a hit in the medical industry as awareness has grown over how much bacteria and viruses can build up on treatment room computer equipment.

“Some dentist offices were wrapping their keyboards in Saran wrap,” he said.

With the next addition of the keyboard, which does not have a planned release yet, the company is going to add a feature which will detect whether a keyboard has been cleaned effectively or not. Each keyboard will be wirelessly connected to a central compliance monitoring system that will contain a dashboard of each keyboard an organization has deployed and how well each has been wiped.

“If you missed a part of the keyboard, it will be able to tell,” Marsden said.

He added that even though a hospital might have a policy for their staff to wipe the keyboards down, they can never be entirely sure the devices are sterile.

But Dr. Doug Stringham, an Edmonton-based dentist, said he can foresee a different use for Cleankeys’ new addition. The dentist has been a Cleankeys customer from the first prototype and said is excited about the auditing capabilities that will come with the monitoring feature.

“It will allow for reproducible records that show the keyboard has been disinfected in between patients,” he said. With patient safety laws continuing to get stricter, this type of electronic record could become invaluable, he added.

The monitoring feature is something that many of its customers, especially hospitals, have been demanding, but it could also be a feature that broadens the company’s reach to other verticals.

Marsden said the keyboards have already seen some interest in the food processing and oil industries, but a big opportunity can also be found anywhere a lot of users are sharing keyboards, such as at schools, call centres and public check-in kiosks.

Future plans for Cleankeys also include an iPad-compatible keyboard and integration with Swype typing technology, which allows users to move between letters without tapping. The Swype system, which is available on some smart phones, was co-invented by Marsden along with Cliff Kushler.

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