What if the smartest room in your house turns out to be the bathroom? For office and commercial buildings, this will soon be a reality. Through sensors, software and network connectivity, restrooms are becoming intelligent, and facility managers are able to remotely manage everything from temperatures and energy usage to lighting and security systems.
It is true that information is power. And information can be used to make restrooms smart in ways that lead to lower costs, fewer complaints, and less waste. It can also help to ensure that restrooms are clean, hygienic and fully stocked. How is this possible? Through the power of the Internet-of-Things (IoT).
The IoT is a network of physical devices that collects and exchanges data. It allows the transfer of information to occur without human-to-human or human-to-computer interactions. According to information technology research firm Gartner, Inc., more
than half of major new business processes and systems will incorporate some element of the IoT by 2020. “Uses of the IoT that were previously impractical will increasingly become practical,” said W. Roy Schulte, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. As the connectivity revolution marches on, it will include every aspect of our lives…even the restroom.
As a species, humans have always found ways to work more efficiently. From the use of crude tools by our ancestors nearly three million years ago to the creation of the assembly line in 1913 to personal computers revolutionizing how we process and retrieve information in the 1970s, history is filled with examples of technology being used to simplify work processes. The Internet of Things is no different. This technology provides numerous opportunities for efficiency gains – from more effectively managing energy consumption to proactively monitoring restroom conditions to minimize waste, while ensuring that the right products are available when and where they are needed. Simple and intuitive remote 24/7 monitoring of washroom conditions, visibility of restroom traffic, and real-time alerts for battery levels, usage, dispenser malfunctions and jams – this smart restroom technology offers it all.
Not only does an intelligent restroom increase efficiency, it can lead to greater waste reduction, which is an important component of any sustainability effort. A truly smart restroom management system helps you accomplish this by letting cleaners know exactly when dispensers are going to run out of product, so they can be serviced at precisely the right time. Without this, the only way to ensure that product does not run out is to check it at fixed intervals, which can lead to towel and tissue products going to waste because they are discarded on a schedule rather than when they are actually about to run out.
In addition to being a smart idea for buildings, the intelligent restroom could play an important role in developing economies where sanitation infrastructure, or proper security measures, are not in place. Imagine a restroom that could identify itself as safe, clean, and fully stocked, as well as pinpoint its location and availability through a smartphone. Not only could this save money, improve operations, and be more sustainable, it could improve the safety and welfare of people all around the world.
In 2016, Kimberly-Clark launched Onvation, an IoT-connected smart restroom management system that allows property managers to remotely monitor conditions in their facilities. As a founding member of the Toilet Board Coalition’s Partnership Council, Kimberly-Clark sees the value of the Smart Sanitation Economy in driving innovation that unlocks data that improves sustainability, safety, and human health.
– Pete Dulcamara, Technical Vice-President & Chief Scientist of Kimberly-Clark and Partnership Council Member of the Toilet Board Coalition