Are you receiving me?

Essity’s Stuart Hands looks at the ways in which communication technology has improved our lives – and also our cleaning protocols – during the global pandemic.

The need to communicate with other human beings has long been a driving force behind technology. From the earliest telegraph systems to the launch of the smartphone in 2007, the urge to contact other people in the most immediate way possible has accelerated the pace of technological development.

Yet it took a global pandemic – one that isolated us from our friends, families and colleagues – to bring about a much more universal adoption of today’s sophisticated communication technologies.

Video conferencing has been technically possible for several decades. AT&T launched its Picturephone service in the 1970s which allowed video calls to be held between subscribers, but a combination of high subscription costs, low take-up rates and a general sense of consumer apathy led to the system being a flop.

The development of video calls continued to evolve during the 1980s and 1990s, but the equipment required to make these calls was expensive. At a human level, people were generally reluctant to embrace new and unfamiliar technologies along with the perceived complexities they

increasing numbers of people finally coming to grips with online systems they may not otherwise have tackled.

Video call platforms such as Skype and FaceTime had already begun increasing in popularity, but everyone was now suddenly confronted with a range of new options including HouseParty, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and Zoom. As these platforms gained in popularity, they also evolved to become easier to use and more customer- friendly. People were even able choose their own backgrounds to make it seem as though they were calling in from the pub, the beach, a rocket ship or a range of other exotic locations, making the experience even more engaging and fun.

In fact, virtual meet-up sites were such a success that Zoom is said to have added more subscribers during the first two months of 2020 than it did in the whole of 2019.

Technology has continued to play a valuable role during the pandemic by allowing people to communicate remotely via their mobile devices and screens, and such systems have also helped to enhance the cleaning and hygiene of our public spaces.

“Zoom is said to have added more subscribers during

the first two months of 2020 than it did in the whole of 2019.”

represented. In any case, face-to-face meetings were considered to be more rewarding and stimulating than remote ones – so why go to all the trouble and expense of organising virtual meet-ups in their place?

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly we were all told to stay at home in our own household groups, and were banned from meeting anyone outside them. This meant the only way we could interact with a wider group – either for work or for pleasure – was via a screen.

The new government guidelines, the need to socially distance and the fear of contracting COVID-19 led to


As we know, the risk of catching COVID-19 can be greatly reduced via measures such as social distancing, practising effective hand hygiene, and increasing the cleaning frequency of publicly-used areas.

Hand hygiene can be carried out by everyone in the public arena – provided the washrooms are kept supplied with soap and hand towels. However, replenishing washroom dispensers and increasing cleaning frequency are both tasks that tend to require a cleaner to be on hand. Also, the presence of a cleaner will inevitably have an impact on social distancing.

Communication technology can be used to solve this dilemma. For example, Tork EasyCube is a software system that ‘connects’ washroom dispensers and cubicles, allowing cleaning and maintenance staff to monitor visitor traffic and dispenser refill requirements via a smartphone or tablet. This allows cleaners to keep an eye on supply levels without having to physically enter the washroom.

Tork EasyCube can also be used in office conference rooms, breakout rooms and kitchenettes to monitor traffic and enable cleaners to respond more swiftly to any cleaning issues that may arise. This targeted approach to cleaning means operatives need only be on site when and where they are actually required, which aids social distancing.

Tork Digital Cleaning Plans is also helping to improve the cleaning of public spaces. This management software solution enables managers to map out cleaning rounds to ensure that all routes are optimised and that no task is overlooked. The system also has a communications



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