The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) is in full swing. Internet of Things is a term used to describe the growing network of physical objects that can connect to the internet to send data collected via sensors, software, and other technologies.
The fully automated and remote-controlled spaces that were once just in science fiction are now a welcome, and even expected, part of our everyday reality.
What this means, practically speaking, is that the things around us are getting smarter — our cars, kitchens, and yes, even bathrooms. But what does it mean to build a smart bathroom? That’s exactly what we’re here to explore, so read on.
You may wonder why you’d want to make your washroom smart in the first place. It’s a fair question, and one that can be answered with three points: user experience, waste reduction, and efficient cleaning operations.
One of the most important aspects of any business is user experience. Whether you operate a retail store or a doctor’s office, the people whom your business serves want to be in a clean, safe environment. So how does a smart bathroom contribute to this?
For many smart products, the benefit comes directly to the consumer through a user interface. Smart bathrooms, however, help you ensure that your facilities get all the attention they need, as soon as they need it.
You can install sensors on refillable supplies such as paper towels, soap, and toilet tissue. Custodial staff can use them to check dispenser levels and even receive real-time alerts when supplies reach critical levels.
The benefit in this dimension is twofold. Firstly, it eliminates the need for them to wander around, checking each individual dispenser. It can also virtually eliminate downtime for your guests, in case something is missed or runs out after being checked.
What normally happens when maintenance staff does a routine check to find that supplies have been partially used? Usually, they will either leave it until the next go-round or they will replace what’s left with fresh supplies, discarding the unused portion.
It’s true that, in the first case, waste will still be low. But that comes at the cost of visitors who now must deal with a lack of paper towels and soap dispensers that have run dry. In the second case, however, guests enjoy fully stocked facilities at the cost of throwing out resources prematurely. Either way, there is a downside.
Bringing smart technology to your washrooms allows you, your business, and your customers to experience the best of both worlds. If you have a smart bathroom that alerts your maintenance staff when dispensers have reached predetermined levels where supplies need to be replaced, you can maximize use without sacrificing usability.
Smart bathroom solutions are typically a part of a full suite of smart building products. When done properly, this means that property managers, employees, and staff who need access to relevant information can find data on every running system in the building on a common digital interface.
You need your facilities in pristine condition at every moment that your business is open. This means that your maintenance team needs access to usage information in real time.
While this may sound like an impossible feat, the technology for all of this and more already exists. With a bit of creativity, you can set up almost any automations you can think of to work together and make your restrooms a pleasure to visit.
Now, let’s take a look at a few upgrades that we suggest. These are sure to help you save money on maintenance while giving your guests a higher-quality experience.
We’ve already mentioned this one a couple of times, but it’s hard to overstate the significance of this one feature of a smart bathroom.
One of the most disruptive yet commonplace faults in a restroom is a lack of critical supplies. No one wants to push a soap dispenser or reach out for toilet paper only to find out there isn’t any. And this not only is a frustrating experience but also could put others at risk for contamination.
You could choose to leave it up to a chance walkthrough or to waste supplies so everything stays stocked up. Or you could use smart dispensers to keep track of what you need, where, when, and how often.
Many businesses have an idea of how often restrooms need attention based on the normal ebb and flow of visitors throughout each day. But there are times when things just don’t flow as they normally do. Busy periods often deplete restroom supplies more quickly than routine check-ins can handle.
You can avoid this if you and your staff have taken steps in advance. By monitoring traffic using smart bathroom sensors, you can analyze the data you receive to ensure that things are kept clean and fully stocked, even in a sudden rush.
You may have noticed a pattern by now, but usage statistics are vital to helping maintain a spotless smart restroom. Automatic toilet sensors have been in place for years, so it should come as no surprise that you can bring them a step further into the future.
All that remains is to upgrade where necessary and plug that technology into your network so you can have custodial staff check in after a certain number of uses.
There are also sensors that you can place on or close to toilets to detect excessive moisture. This will let you detect flooding as soon as it occurs, thereby minimizing the overall impact of potential overflows.
While it’s good to have visitors who are willing to alert your staff to a problem, they may not always be able to tell someone who is directly responsible. By the time the message gets along in such a case, a small problem can easily escalate into a messy and disruptive situation.
Much like automatic toilets, touchless faucets have become almost commonplace in recent years. Here, again, usage data can be collected and used to maintain optimal cleanliness. If someone doesn’t need to touch a faucet, there is a lower chance that they might drip water on the sink counter.
With LEDs and other energy-saving lighting becoming more popular, energy consumption is constantly dropping. Still, no light saves as much energy as one turned off, and you can program lights in your smart bathroom to dim or turn off completely when not in use.
Just be sure to include sensors in places where you expect people to be — no one wants to be suddenly plunged into darkness in the middle of using your restroom!
While this may be a somewhat sensitive topic, the truth is that commercial bathrooms can be the source of more than their fair share of offensive smells. Many restrooms already employ air fresheners that dispense blasts of scent on a timer, but what if you could make it even smarter?
Automation allows you to synchronize air freshening and even filtration with a toilet flush or the use of toilet paper.
You want your guests to be comfortable when they use your restroom, so it makes sense to include a smart heating and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) solution.
While it can be difficult to shift the temperature in a large open space such as a retail store, restrooms can be controlled to maintain comfortable temperatures regardless of the weather outside or the climate in the rest of your space.
If you and the people on your teams are uncertain about how to go about installing and setting up some of the components we’ve discussed, don’t worry. Making use of this technology is simple, but there’s no need to spend valuable time and resources trying to figure it all out yourself. MeroSupply is here to help you bring all of your spaces into the Information Age.
We will work with you to install sensors in each paper towel, toilet paper, and soap dispenser to start. These sensors communicate with a cellular router in the building, which feeds all information to Mero servers that work on a cloud server. Finally, the Mero platform analyzes the data, builds reports, and sends alerts in real time.
Bathroom maintenance staff will have either a tracking beacon or the Mero app for smartphones that syncs to the in-app dashboard. The app helps keep track of their locations relative to bluetooth sensors in your smart restrooms, so they don’t need to log check-ins by hand. They just tend to alerts and focus on maintaining a clean space. The Mero platform takes care of the rest.
We’ve barely begun to explore the possibilities when it comes to bringing the Internet of Things into the bathrooms of your business. And don’t forget, this is just a single space in a full suite of smart building solutions.