a heated seat plus a number of other smart functions, all operated via a remote control.

Soon afterwards, digital staff-check systems began appearing in the contract cleaning sector to monitor staff movements and to ensure the safety of cleaners when working in remote locations. However, such systems were clunky and cumbersome and many operatives were reluctant to use them.

A typical early staff-checking system would require the employee to dial an automatic landline number at the client’s site to verify their presence and if they failed to do so, a text message would automatically be sent to the cleaning company to inform them of a potential no-show.

Another early technological solution was the use of mobile phones for transmitting SMS messages and for taking low-res images of sites and cleaning situations. Not every operative had a mobile phone though, which meant cleaning companies would potentially have to pay out to equip their workforce with the necessary devices to make the technology work.

A number of new high-tech solutions have been unveiled at Interclean Amsterdam over the years, many of which have been heralded as the shape of things to come. Robot vacuums and scrubber dryers are a regular feature at the exhibition, but the early take-up of such machines was poor. Besides being considered too expensive, many had a tendency to collide with objects or were unable to clean close into corners. They also needed a manual operator to be on hand to guide them and recharge them when necessary.

In fact, technological solutions in general were often viewed with suspicion in their infancy because they were considered too difficult, too complicated, unreliable, impractical or insufficiently user-friendly. But that all changed in June 2007.

With the worldwide launch of the iPhone, technology suddenly became much more accessible and opened up a new realm of possibilities, literally in the palm of our hands.

Smartphone take-up has been phenomenal and people have quickly learned to use their devices, downloading apps and interacting with the world via their phones. The fact that everyone is now web-enabled means that technological solutions have become much more viable.

Staff check systems for cleaners can now be easily implemented using the operative’s own familiar smartphone, removing the need for any expensive outlay or intensive training. Many robot cleaning machines can now be programmed via the operator’s phone as well. Even those high-tech Japanese toilets have evolved to be controllable via a smartphone app, eliminating the need for a bewildering remote control unit.

In the meantime, sensor technology has become much more sophisticated which has opened up the technology field still further. Today’s robot cleaners are equipped with anti-collision sensors which make them more reliable and productive. They are also able to gauge when their batteries are running low and take themselves off to the charging station when necessary. The robot cleaning market is

“Data-driven cleaning system frees up time that

the cleaner would otherwise have spent manually checking washrooms.”

expanding fast and is expected to see a growth of more than 16% in the five-year period between 2018 and 2023.

Sensors are also being used to speed up washroom traffic in busy facilities such as airports. Sensor-operated lights above each cubicle turn green when a toilet is empty and red when it is occupied, to allow visitors to easily pinpoint those cubicles that are available for use.

A combination of an increased familiarity with smartphones and today’s sophisticated sensors are behind the fast- growing Tork EasyCube digital software. This system ‘connects’ the washroom and allows cleaning and maintenance staff to remotely monitor visitor traffic and check dispenser refill requirements.

This data-driven cleaning system frees up time that the cleaner would otherwise have spent manually checking washrooms. Tork EasyCube has become hugely popular and is now in use in airports, offices, shopping centres, amusement parks and other facilities all over the world. Again, the key to the system’s success lies in the fact that staff can check on cleaning needs using familiar technology on a tablet or smartphone.

New technological solutions are emerging all the time, with augmented and virtual reality systems becoming increasingly accessible to all. A number of VR units were displayed at Interclean 2018 where visitors were invited to enter virtual worlds and view washroom fixtures or assess the cleaning requirements of a given environment, for example.

At Essity, we have our own cutting-edge virtual reality training simulation solution aimed at improving hand hygiene in healthcare. Tork VR Clean Hands Training and Education uses virtual reality to provide healthcare staff with realistic scenarios where hand hygiene should be carried out. It’s easy to use and it helps to enhance the learning experience for staff.

Technology is opening up an ever-increasing range of possibilities, and it is poised to expand our horizons beyond anything we ever anticipated.

Yet the key to ensuring that technological solutions realise their full potential in the cleaning and hygiene sectors lies in ensuring that they are accessible, understandable and above all, easy to use. TECHNOLOGY | 63


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