Bearded man smiles

For the past few years, manufacturers have promoted Internet of Things (IoT) technology in the restroom, showing off their products at the ISSA Show and Interclean in Amsterdam. Although offering numerous benefits such as better scheduling, service alerts and janitor empowerment, IoT is a hard sell. 

With each manufacturer offering their own software platform, a user will have multiple apps to routinely check. For example, towel dispensers will run differently from soap dispensers. And, that’s assuming all of a building service contractor’s accounts or a school’s campus use the same brand of dispensers in all of its restrooms. Add to this that IoT includes autoscrubbers, laundry dispensers, hand dryers, waste receptacles and other products, and the number of platforms quickly adds up. 

At the recent ISSA Show in Dallas, restroom IoT took a much needed step forward. Manufacturers announced partnerships with each other, willing to share technology and data for the betterment of the user. This news is encouraging and not something I thought possible just a year ago. It still may not result in widespread adoption yet, but it moves IoT toward becoming more feasible. As a result, I heard a lot more end users talking about this technology this year. 

However, there is one aspect of IoT that definitely needs more focus — the role of the distributor. Every manufacturer I spoke to in Dallas said distributors would still supply the towel, tissue and soap, but manufacturers would handle dispenser sales, installation and data analysis. 

I believe distributors need a more pronounced role. They need to become IoT experts for their customers, with the ability to service dispensers and analyze the data. It will take a lot of work and education to make this a reality, but it will also keep distributors relevant as this industry advances.