Cleankeys building keyboards to stop the spread of hospital infections

Anyone who has ever used a computer in a public setting like a school library or internet cafe has probably been grossed out at least once by the state of the keyboard.

Maybe the keys are sticky, maybe they’re dirty, maybe the whole thing is covered in human hair or foodstuff, or something more… troubling, shall we say. It’s pretty off-putting.

But in hospitals, dirty keyboards aren’t just an eyesore: they’re a potentially deadly source of infection. Just about anything in a hospital handled by human hands is a potential point of transmission for disease and infection; and keyboards, full of valleys and divots that collect dirt nicely, are a prime vector of infection.

Enter Cleankeys, an Edmonton company that produces what is probably the easiest-to-clean keyboard ever built. The Cleankeys 2 is a glass-topped keyboard that makes cleaning, and more importantly, thorough cleaning, a snap.

Most sanitary keyboards on the market today simply employ rubber covers to make them easy to clean. While this is easier to clean than standard keyboards, the rubber is porous, can be ripped and can be difficult to type on. Cleankeys, on the other hand, is a complete unit that can be wiped down in its entirety. It’s more functional too, with a track pad, sensitivity sensors to tell the difference between typing and resting fingers on the keypad, wireless capabilities and even small divots on the keys for a more tactile typing experience.

With hospitals focusing more of their efforts on preventing infections, Cleankeys is producing an in-demand product. Alberta Health Services has 200 Cleankeys 2 units for testing purposes in three hospitals, and Cleankeys is finding success in the hunt for capital investment, as The Edmonton Journal reports. This was no easy task, according to Cleankeys CEO Randy Marsden:

AVAC, an Alberta-based private, not-for-profit company with some government funding invests in promising early-stage value-added businesses and has been a big supporter of Cleankeys. It will add $1 million on Jan. 18 to its original $650,000 investment, part of Marsden’s challenge to raise $5 million for a major push to health-care and other potential customers, such as food industries and even Internet cafes, where equipment is shared.

“We still have to raise another $4 million, and we have raised a million so far, mostly from doctors and dentists who see the potential of this product. We are working on finding the rest,” he said.

Which brings up the never-ending challenge for small firms located in Edmonton, a city rich in technology expertise and entrepreneurship, but lacking financial “angels” with deep pockets and patience.

“This province is all about resources, but it must diversify. I think the government has finally got it, with the Alberta Enterprise Fund and AVAC. But we need investors with a quarter to a half million to put in,” Marsden said. “We don’t need $10 million, so our firm is too small for the big venture-capital funds.”

For more information on Cleankeys, click here.