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The technological challenge


Technology is set to revolutionise the cleaning and hygiene sectors – but only if we embrace it. Essity’s Stuart Hands looks at the challenges involved with ensuring that today’s tech innovations are both user-friendly and intuitive.


In 2014, the Government of India had the bright idea of installing 2000 ‘e-toilets’ across 20 of the country’s states. These high-tech facilities were introduced with much fanfare, because they were a low maintenance solution that also cut down on water use.


But a mere six years later many of these toilets now stand idle, shunned by the public and neglected by the staff tasked with their upkeep.


The reason? A combination of technical glitches, inadequate maintenance and a poor understanding of how to use them all united to signal the death-knell of the facilities.


The cubicles were designed to be maintained and monitored remotely and each was equipped with a 225L capacity water tank. But these tanks needed refilling at regular intervals – a task that was neglected by many municipalities.


62 | TECHNOLOGY


A vacant e-toilet would be flagged up with a green flashing light and the door would open automatically on the insertion of a coin. But there were many reports of coins not being accepted and of lights flashing red instead of green when the cubicle was unoccupied.


Such glitches and maintenance issues left users feeling bewildered, uncomfortable and cheated – and eventually they stopped using them altogether. This e-toilet experiment underlines the fact that it is not enough for a technological innovation to be smart. It also needs to be reliable, intuitive and user-friendly in order to ensure that it is adopted.


Various technological solutions have emerged on to the cleaning and hygiene market over the years, among the earliest of which were high-tech Japanese toilets. The Toto Washlet, launched in 1980, featured an integral bidet and


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