Harness the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve restroom satisfaction and reduce waste

Originally published in the March/April 2017 issue of BOMA Magazine — Building automation systems are found in many commercial properties today. These systems are routinely used to remotely monitor and control HVAC, lighting, security and safety equipment. By automating these functions, management teams can improve tenant comfort, increase operating efficiency and reduce costs and waste.

With the big expense categories covered, makers of smart management systems are exploring other areas where efficiencies can be found—including a building’s restrooms.

While restrooms are a small part of a commercial building’s annual budget, they can greatly affect perceptions of your entire property, especially when you consider that they are one of the top three sources of tenant complaints. Recent surveys have found that 73 percent of tenants say a bad restroom reflects poor management, and 60 percent say an unhygienic restroom lowers their opinion of a building. When you improve the restroom, you improve overall impressions of your property and boost tenant satisfaction.

The Connected Restroom

One new way to improve the restroom experience is to harness the machine-to-machine connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), a network of physical devices that collect and exchange data. Restroom systems are just beginning to connect to the IoT and are ideally suited to its many benefits. For example, when property and facility managers receive real-time data about restroom demand, they can identify and resolve potential issues before they occur.

Smart restroom management systems take the guesswork out of replenishing bath tissue, paper towels and soap. Sensors that are embedded into towel, tissue and soap dispensers, as well as door counters, transmit realtime data through the cloud over a secure network. These systems send automatic texts alerting building managers and janitorial staff to product and battery levels, usage, jams and overall traffic; then generate confirmation messages when an issue has been resolved.

The detailed information provided by a data-driven restroom management system provides a number of benefits, including the ability to adjust cleaning and maintenance schedules, redirect resources to where they are needed most and ensure responsiveness to tenant needs. It also can improve budgeting and inventory planning and help reduce costs and waste. That’s a big leap from how most restrooms are managed today.

Boosting Sustainability

Waste reduction is a key component of any sustainability effort. Strategic scheduling via an IoT-based system can help you accomplish this goal by letting cleaners know exactly when dispensers are going to run out of product so they can be serviced at precisely the right time. Without a smart restroom management system, restrooms must be checked at fixed intervals. This can lead to towel and tissue products being discarded on a schedule rather than when they are actually about to run out. Smart restroom management systems not only help eliminate waste by reducing the likelihood of premature refills, they also reduce tenant complaints associated with unfilled product.

Selecting the Right System

There are different types of smart restroom management systems on the market. Here are some tips for choosing the right one for your property:

  • Make sure the system does more than just tell you if dispensers are empty or full.
    A truly smart system provides 24/7 web-based monitoring with relevant and detailed information.
  • Look for a system that provides actionable data and analytics.
    This allows you to compare product systems, individual restrooms and even buildings.
  • Choose a system that provides customized reporting.
    This feature lets you capture and compare information, such as specific restroom traffic.

The restroom doesn’t have to be a problem. Let it mirror the rest of your property in technology, appearance, functionality and efficiency. If you’re already using the Internet of Things in other areas of your building, why not use it to manage the restroom, too?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Terry Sanchez is marketing and sales leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional, North America. For more information about Kimberly-Clark Professional, visit www.kcprofessional.com/onvation or call (800) 241-3146.

BOMA Magazine is the official magazine of the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International. It is a leading source for the latest news, issues and trends affecting the commercial real estate industry.