Look, No Hands

15 Nov, 2004 | Science And TechnologyTdp

At the UK office, you have a magnetic swipe card to let you through the alarmed 'gateways' at the front of the building each morning. If you don't swipe, an alarm sounds. I would say that at this point storm trooper-esque security men drop from the ceiling and spray you with noxious chemicals while shouting at you to remain still, all under the constant bombardment of some bodiless female voice repeatedly announcing 'Security Alert' loud enough for people in the North Sea to hear and red strob lights make the interior look like a mix between a brothel and a nightclub, but I'd be lying. What actually happens is that the security guard behind the desk looks up, sees you fumbling with your card, changes his expression to one of 'not another corporate dickhead who can't work a swipe card,' then ambles over to the off switch. Some areas of the office even have their own little 'gateway' which only certain people have access to. It's hardly worth the effort to be honest and generally locked rooms have standard mechanical push-button locks. They're cheaper and more reliable, and don't need space on a par with the new Heathrow Terminal 5 development, unlike their electronic counterparts.

In Holland, things are a little different. We have radio transmitter ID cards. Oh, yes. So you can reach the stairwell/elevator bank on each floor, but you can't go anywhere unless your card gives you access. This means that whenever you walk near a door you can enter, you hear a satisfying 'clunk' as the locking mechanism disengages to allow you entry, all without you touching, or swiping, a thing. Even if you're just walking past. Admittedly, you still have to push or pull the thing to open it, but the idea that something is obeying your non-voiced opinion, even when you may not have a wish to use the door, is vaguely similar to a telepathic puppy that's eager to please (or is that just me?). It seems very space age, almost Star Trekkian, that complete control, all without moving a muscle. Now, I wonder if they can get the doors to slide open with a satisfying 'swoshick.'