Last month, I had the opportunity to attend ISSA/INTERCLEAN Amsterdam for the first time. The world’s largest trade show displayed cutting-edge product innovations and showed where the industry is heading for the next few years.

The most prevalent technology on display was robotics. Once considered a niche in this industry, there’s no longer any doubt that equipment is moving in this direction. Four companies continuously demonstrated their autonomous machines in the special Robot Arena and two of them were finalists for the Innovation Award, with one of them winning its category.  Even companies currently without robots assured me that this technology is currently in development.

Manufacturers are adamant that robots aren’t designed to replace workers, but rather, fill the gaps caused by worker shortages. This allows current staff members to focus on other, more fine-tuned cleaning tasks.

Smart technology, or Internet of Things (IoT), came to the cleaning industry in full-force last year, and based on the products seen in Amsterdam, it’s clear IoT will only continue to evolve. From floor machines to restroom dispensers to chemical proportioners, more products are capturing data.

Building service contractors may be interested to know that IoT is moving beyond products to also track janitors. This “evidence-based cleaning” requires janitors to scan bar codes with their smartphones placed near each room or area to be cleaned. With this information, supervisors can monitor, in real-time, where each janitor is and how long he or she is taking to clean a given space.

With high turnover, it’s hard to keep janitors trained on equipment use and maintenance. This year’s overall winner of the Innovation Award uses augmented reality to self-train, self-troubleshoot and get remote support directly from the manufacturer. After scanning the equipment with a smart device, the user receives step-by-step graphics or video guidance on how to use or care for it. Now, any worker — regardless of experience and expertise — can learn how to properly use and maintain equipment.

These were just some of the trends I gleaned from the 800-plus manufacturers exhibiting in Amsterdam. Based on what I saw, BSCs should get ready for more exciting products coming to the cleaning industry.