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Rachel Belle

Keyboards are filthy, but a Bothell company created one that cleans itself

The keyboard! (courtesy of Vioguard)

Scot Reynolds was slogging along in his car one afternoon, listening to The Dori Monson Show, when some of Dori’s banter became very relevant to him. You see, we all use the same studio, which means the same keyboards and microphones are used by different people all day long. Dori had just started his show, and he was harping on John Curley for leaving the workstation a mess; for not wiping down the keyboard with an anti-bacterial wipe.

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Reynolds is director of sales at Vioguard, a Bothell company that recently launched a self-sanitizing computer keyboard. A keyboard designed for disgusting, germ-infested cesspools like the 24-hour KIRO studios, where a lot of people share a single workspace and keyboard throughout the course of a day.

“There’s been a lot of research done about computer keyboards, particularly in hospitals, and how they are one of the main areas for transmitting germs,” Reynolds said. “This keyboard has been tested by two different laboratories and it’s shown to kill 99.99 percent of germs on the surface.”

Vioguard’s Bronco Dahlem explains how it works.

“There is a ‘sanitize’ button that actually has the keyboard go into a box. There’s a tray inside that has UVC lights. The FDA makes us say that it takes 90 seconds to kill 99.99 percent of the germs that are on the keyboard. There’s a yellow light that actually says it’s being cleaned, it flips over to green, you wave your hand in front of the keyboard. It’s a no-touch, automated system, and the keyboard comes out.”

The keyboard would work swimmingly at KIRO, but it was actually designed for hospitals. Dahlem explained that back in 2005, Dr. Peter Wilson left the National Health Service in the UK for Microsoft.

“[The National Health Service] had started to download their paper records to online and they noticed their infection rates were going through the roof as everybody was using the same keyboard,” Dahlem said. “So he asked Microsoft to look for a solution. At that point, Microsoft really wasn’t looking to go into the healthcare field. So they passed on the idea. One of our co-founders went with it. We have FDA clearance on the keyboard.”

It is, in fact, the only keyboard in existence approved by the FDA.

Vioguard hopes to develop a whole line of UVC self-cleaning products, from escalator hand rails to ATM machines.

“Vioguard holds 14 different patents for using UV light to kill germs on various surfaces, including the keyboard, desktop telephones, writing utensils,” Reynolds said.

The keyboard costs $999 and anyone can buy one.

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About the Author

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of the twice-monthly, culinary audio adventure podcast, Your Last Meal.

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