From smart sensors and QR codes to robotic cleaning machines and remote data transmission, technology now touches every corner of the building service contractors (BSC) world. These tools can improve scheduling and time management, save on supplies, produce better cleaning results, and even improve health outcomes. They can also drown a manager in data and open new doors to privacy breeches and other cyber anxieties. 

Even with these concerns, cleaning’s technical revolution is here to stay and will only continue to grow. Statista Research predicts that there will be more than 75 billion Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices in use by 2025, a whopping threefold increase from 2019. Chalk that growth up to cheaper, smaller sensors that are easier to install and customize. Here’s how BSCs are using these new technologies to maximize staff time and improve cleaning protocols, all while protecting data privacy and their cleaning crews. 

The Restroom Wises Up 

Restrooms may offer the best example of technology-enabled cleaning success to date. Always a problem area in facilities, it is well documented that restrooms generate a lot of complaints — complaints that reflect poorly on the company and their BSCs. A small sampling of surveys published in a white paper by Kimberly-Clark Professional proves this. 

One survey reveals that restrooms are the most problematic area across all types of facilities by almost double. Conversely, clean restrooms have a halo effect that can inspire better personal hygiene, particularly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One survey found that spotless sinks promote proper handwashing and even increased the length of time users spend washing their hands. Dirty sinks, however, dissuade restroom users from washing their hands at all. Most telling of all, one third of adults will walk out of a restroom without using it if they deem it too dirty. 

Widely accepted technology like motion sensor-controlled lighting, touchless sink taps and automatic soap or hand towel dispensers already help squeamish guests feel a little more comfortable using a restroom away from home. But connecting these tools via the Internet of Things can provide valuable insight into how that restroom is actually being used. 

Sensors can measure multiple variables like the number of people entering the space, how much soap is left in a dispenser, or how many times an individual toilet is flushed (or if that toilet is in fact clogged and requires service). 

This kind of active monitoring combined with data analytics can optimize cleaning schedules, save money on supplies, and enhance user experience and confidence. For example, look to Hartfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, serviced by Atlanta Airlines Terminal Company (AATC).  

“Even though cleaning restrooms is a tiny sliver of our operating budget, it’s one of the biggest and most important parts of what we do,” says Kofi Smith, Ph.D., president and CEO, AATC, Atlanta. He added that access to clean restrooms is crucial as about 90 percent of both business and leisure travelers will use these spaces in the airport. 

In 2018, Smith installed a smart system that monitored paper towel and toilet tissue use, and alerted custodians when supplies were running low. Just six months later, restrooms that had sensors reported 40 percent fewer towel outages. AATC also reported saving 22 percent on toilet tissue waste as fewer rolls were replaced before they were empty.  

These same sensors can also be applied to trash receptacles that monitor fullness. This sensor will streamline work and reduce time and supplies wasted by changing out half-filled trash cans. 

When used in a healthcare setting, the Internet of Things can also help improve hand hygiene and cut down on hospital acquired infections (HAIs). Handwashing and/or hand sanitizing is important throughout the entire healthcare setting, not just the restrooms. By embedding sensors in employee name badges and soap and sanitizer dispensers, this technology can identify and record each hand hygiene event. It can even provide a gentle reminder if the employee forgets to wash or sanitize. Over time, hand hygiene rates can double or even triple, significantly reducing HAIs. 

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