IoT restrooms are smart business

Get warnings for low supplies, automate toilet cleaning, use sensors to see if toilet stalls are in use

by Lance Dicker — Originally published in the June 2018 issue of ISSA

You have a team responsible for restroom maintenance and cleaning. Do they have a checklist of work to be completed in each area and are team members assigned to do that work on a set schedule? What if your team could personally and positively impact the guest experience? What if you had technology to assist your team with restroom maintenance?

Phone apps that connect you and your team to the experience of each user in the building to “smart” equipment connected to the Internet are available to make facility cleaning more efficient, more effective, and more experience-focused. Welcome to the Internet of Things (IoT). And nowhere does IoT work better to help cleaners than in the restroom.

Interactive Experience

Have you ever driven down a major thoroughfare like the New Jersey or other similar turnpike and stopped in a rest area to use the restroom? With 20, maybe even 30 other people in the restroom at the same time, the toilet paper dispensers run low, the soap dispensers need refilling, trash overflows the waste receptacles, and the floors must be cleaned. Today, patrons can use their mobile phones and tablets to quickly alert the facility team of a problem. Even better, imagine that as corrective action is taken, the work is logged, and the patron is thanked for their time and consideration in notifying staff of the problem. Staff members once stood and waited outside a restroom to clean as needed. No longer. Reallocated staff can respond when required, but otherwise stay busy doing other work.

Connected Soap Dispensers

Pretend you are a facility staff team member in a high-traffic airport, such as Chicago’s O’Hare or Los Angeles’ LAX. There are millions of guests in the airport every week. That’s a lot of hand washing and a lot of hand soap. Using ordinary soap dispensers, facility staff risk the dispensers running out, breaking, and even destruction or theft from the facility. Picture a dispensing system interconnected so that as soap flows to each dispenser, the dispenser records the usage data and transmits it to “the cloud,” alerting the facility team to any concerns. Reallocated staff can respond and immediately correct concerns without wasted time or effort.

Automated toilet and urinal cleaning

It’s time for the cleaning crew to clean the restroom… or is it? How many people have occupied a particular stall? Is it too soon or too late? These are common questions answered today by adhering to a strict cleaning schedule and hoping that in the time between cleanings, nobody left a mess in a stall. Imagine if instead of using a time-based cleaning schedule, the toilets and urinals used sensors to properly disinfect and then sent data to determine when and what to clean and maintain. For example, if the third stall on the right has received 20 visitors since the last cleaning, and a toilet paper alert is in effect, then there’s a need to clean the stall and refill toilet tissue. If the second stall on the left hasn’t been used since the last cleaning, then there is no need to clean or refill the dispenser. The IoT can help you take control of your cleaning schedule and increase efficiency by tracking restroom usage.

Traffic control

As a guest waits in a line to use a restroom in a busy facility like a stadium, there is a tendency to peer under the stall partition, knock, or even yell out to determine if someone else is already in the stall. There is confusion. There is backlog. Again, the IoT offers opportunity for improvement. Did you know that IoT connected sensors can be mounted to detect whether a guest is occupying a stall? These sensors are not cameras or prying eyes, they are the latest in “presence detection” technology, and they are connected to a red light/green light system that alerts other restroom users to the availability of a stall.

The IoT is amazing. In our personal lives, we utilize crowd-sourced data and IoT every day. From smart watches to traffic apps on cell phones, these technologies have changed the way we interact with the world around us. As these advances reshape the world of cleaning, we are presented with the opportunity to unite cleanliness and guest experience to create value for everyone.

IoT technology makes facility cleaning data visible, allowing teams to deploy critical resources when and where they are needed most to increase efficiency and enhance the guest experience—and, of course, save money.

Lance DickerLance Dicker is director of operations and procurement at Action Unlimited Resources, New Castle, DE. He can be reached at ldicker@actioncleanup.com.

Copyright by ISSA®

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