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A revolution in cleaning tech


Tork Manufacturer Essity's Stuart Hands, looks at the tech breakthroughs that have occurred in the cleaning and hygiene sector over the past 20 years – and considers how the industry is smarter than ever.


Cleaning is traditionally considered to be a low-tech industry associated with simple tools such as mops, buckets, brooms and squeegees.


But over the past 20 years the sector has evolved enormously – largely due to technology. New and emerging phenomena such as the internet, the smartphone, sensors and robots have all had a huge impact on cleaning, as well as on the world in general.


Cleaning robots first entered the market in the late 1990s and were hailed as a ground-breaking innovation. However, early models had a tendency to collide with walls, stop short of any objects on the floor and leave parts of the floor uncleaned. A breakthrough occurred in 2002 with the launch of the iRobot Roomba, which could change direction


when encountering an obstacle and could detect any dirty spots on the floor.


At around this time, cleaning teams began to employ devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to enable them to streamline their cleaning rounds and communicate with one another and their managers. These battery-powered, pocket-sized PDAs pre-dated the smartphone and enabled cleaners to submit reports in real time via data that was inputted manually. PDAs came with a touchscreen and a stylus and required the use of a flash drive or a solid-state memory for storage.


Meanwhile, the rate of innovation was progressing much more slowly in the washroom where sensor-operated taps – first popularised in the 1980s – were the most


14 | TECHNOLOGY


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