Engineer/pilot/attorney Jon Roberts, PhD, has dozens of inventions to his credit. They include technology that thwarts piracy in movie theatres, gadgets that track important items inadvertently left behind, devices to enhance airport security and even an electronic matchmaker that alerts two nearby individuals with similar interests that they have, indeed, found their match. Now, as Chairman and VP R&D of VirWall Systems Inc., he's introducing a keyboard sanitizer that uses UV-C light to eradicate bacteria and viruses on computer keyboards in about 45 seconds, for under a hundredth of a penny per exposure. The invention is featured in the November issue of the New Jersey Technology Council's LifeSciTrends, an update on important health and technological advances.
"I started studying patterns of infection transmission years ago when my son started bringing home a never-ending series of bacteria and viruses from kindergarten. I don't think we'd ever had as many colds or coughs in succession," explains Dr. Roberts.
Today Dr. Roberts has parlayed his study of vectors of disease transmission into the design of a streamlined, efficient keyboard sanitizer that stops 99.99+ percent of bacteria and viruses before they can become hitchhiking pathogens. It is effective against influenza A (the family of which H1N1 is a member), staph, strep, salmonella, MRSA, E. coli, norovirus, Avian flu, the common cold and more.
"When you consider that the average computer keyboard can harbor as many as 3000 microbes per square inch, you've got a real problem on your hands - literally," notes Dr. Roberts. In 2008 the CDC reported the first documented case of norovirus transmitted by computer keyboards and peripherals in a school system. In other settings - such as hospitals -- contaminated keyboards can pose significant threats to patients and healthcare professionals alike since the resident pathogens may be more virulent and patients are less able to ward off such infections.
"Anywhere you have shared computers," explains VirWall's President/CEO, Donald S. Hetzel, PhD, "you also have shared germs. When people eat near their computers, the problem is compounded. Bacteria love to feed and breed on our crumbs."
The VirWall KBS-1 is a lightweight, high tech lid that fits over a standard-size keyboard and uses 254-260 nanometers of UV-C wavelength to deactivate potential pathogens. The sanitizer provides uniform coverage in killing microbes, unlike disinfectant sprays and wipes that are user-dependent. The invention recently earned a medal for innovation in healthcare devices and the Yankee "Green" Award for its ability to kill germs with a novel mechanism that avoids the use of chemical disinfectants which some believe to pose environmental damage over time.
The sanitizer will retail for about $100. VirWall also holds patents for a portfolio of additional protective products including a bio-waste sanitizer/receptacle; a pen sanitizer for use at retail checkouts; and a smart-phone recharger/sanitizer.
"That keyboard in front of you is far more than a keyboard," explains Dr. Roberts. "It's a germ factory that can cause a relentless series of illnesses and infections. The good news is that some simple precautions can neutralize its potential to sicken."