The smart washroom

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Dave Howell reports on how new technologies are moving into washroom services to enable them to become more sustainable.

According to the Top Trends in Facilities Management report from the CBRE, the smart workplace will continue to evolve and expand as Internet of Things (IoT) penetrates every facet of working spaces. Another key trend is automation with increasing machine assistance impacting on facilities and environmental management.

More managed workspaces will also increasingly come onto the agenda of environment managers tasked with providing support services to the groups using these spaces. Co-working and contingent worker environments will both become highly popular as work is now more flexible.

The importance of data collection

Data is becoming a vital asset for all environmental managers. With data collection about to see a quantum leap thanks to embedded sensors, every aspect of an estate including its washroom facilities can be monitored and thus more efficiently managed. The burden of checking the cleanliness of these facilities and replenishing consumables will become increasingly automated.

The Royal Bank of Scotland uses 14 tonnes of paper towels each year across its 700 branches and head office. It wanted to cut down and its solution was to switch to an intelligent dryer from Savortex. The smart dryer uses a third of the energy of conventional dryers and has saved a reported £35,000 in operational costs in just the first year of installation.

John Hayes, Head of Supply Chain Services at RBS, said: “There is a great deal of pressure from the Government on UK businesses to operate in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way. As a leading bank with branches and offices across the country, we felt it was important that we reviewed our carbon footprint. However, moving to a more environmentally friendly way of operating can be costly and time-consuming.”

New insights

Often seen as simply a static environment and service, the washroom will become a connected space. Systems such as Tork EasyCube connect washrooms through sensors enabling operatives to see through a smartphone app when soap and towel dispensers are running low. GOJO’s SMARTLINK Service Alerts app also offers similar monitoring services for its dispensers.

Waste bins can be similarly equipped with sensors to indicate when they need emptying. This can radically reduce the need to physically check washrooms which clearly has a practical application across large estates with multiple washrooms.

As the washroom is often the environment which is used to gauge the cleanliness of an estate or building, being able to automate the maintenance of these spaces has advantages environment managers can benefit from. In some settings such as healthcare and public attractions, this kind of washroom monitoring technology will become commonplace. Leveraging the flexibility of the cloud, cleaning teams can be connected together and use the data being gathered to better plan their routes and actions.

Technologies such as the Air Bar from CWS-Boco enable washroom odours to be neutralised. Last year, the company also showed its Paradise Cleanseat PRO — a self-cleaning toilet seat. The seat senses when the toilet has been used even if the seat itself has not been touched. The disinfecting cartridge that the seat uses has 5000 cleaning cycles before replacement.

For environment managers, the detailed overview they will be able to gain thanks to embedded sensor technologies enables them to perform predictive analytics. The footfall that an estate receives including in its washrooms will become data that will inform how cleaning teams operate and also feed into the procurement of consumables.

Metsä’s Katrin LIVE service, for instance, can already monitor refill levels based on usage. Mark Dewick, Managing Director UK and Ireland at Metsä Tissue told the European Cleaning Journal: “By plugging into the IoT, dispensers can help facility management companies and end customers to be more efficient and to do better business.”

Future developments

The future of the washroom will include more data gathering and analysis to create an intelligent environment that will be easier and more cost-effective to maintain. Technologies that are developing for domestic bathrooms will begin to appear in commercial washrooms.

We already have smart dispensers. These will be joined by smart mirrors that offer users additional services and information. Already available in the domestic market, environment managers will be able to specify this type of technology for their washroom facilities. And as face recognition becomes even more accurate, washrooms could become personalised. A mirror could recognise a user and adjust water temperature, for instance, to their precise needs.

Gesture control has been commonplace in washrooms for several years. This could be joined by voice control, as systems such as Amazon’s Echo move into working spaces. Washrooms could be among the first places voice control will appear, as they generally have quieter environments making voice control a more practical proposition. Cleanliness and the ability to connect cleaning services to the procurement supply chain will also be possible. The washroom of the near future is intelligent and smart.

Your checklist

Sensors and monitoring

Every aspect of the washroom is about to become intelligent. IoT technology will enable towel and soap dispensers, for instance, to alert maintenance staff when they need replenishing.

Higher levels of cleanliness

Research consistently shows that washroom cleanliness is vital to wellbeing. Self-cleaning toilets will become the norm across all washrooms.

Control and action

The gesture control that has become commonplace in many washrooms will be enhanced with voice control as this moves increasingly into the workplace.

Logistics and supply chain

The smart washroom will enable environment managers to connect these spaces to their supply chains to ensure consumables are ordered when they are needed.

Last reviewed 27 November 2018

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