AffinEco Eyes Emerging Technologies

By Matt Ellis

emerging_technologies_elearning-unimap-eduBrain Corp calls its new commercial floor scrubber “part mini-Zamboni and part Roomba.” The robot is touted as an example of advanced artificial intelligence technology, a smart-robot that can work its way around any obstacle and–without human assistance–leave the floor gleaming clean.

“The area we’re focused on initially is the retail industry: big box retailers, malls and airports,” according to Phil Duffy, Brain Corp’s Vice President of Marketing and Product Development. “The robot can read all sorts of environments regardless of size and physical infrastructure.”

Brain Corp was named winner of the Innovation of the Year Award at the 2016 ISSA/Interclean trade show in Chicago, but it was not the only company promoting advanced technology as a must-have for commercial cleaning companies.

AffinEco Managing Partner Michael Diamond says there were many great ideas on display on the trade show floor, and some were still concepts only. Like other commercial cleaning companies, AffinEco is eager to see what actually rolls out into the marketplace and at what price point. In his years in the industry, Diamond has witnessed that customers aren’t always wowed by a gadget or technology just because it’s the latest thing.

“We’re always on the lookout for new tools that can improve our services, so we’ll keep a close eye on how the concepts and products unveiled at the show—many still in beta testing—develop and fare in everyday use,” says Diamond. “Technology is advancing rapidly, which is really exciting for our industry, but we need to be diligent evaluating the actual payoff for our customers.”

One developing area that Diamond and others are closely watching is the commercial adoption of the “Internet of Things” (IoT), that is, the interconnecting of devices, buildings, etc. that allows them to auto-collect and send data. The ability to collect and send data can help guide procedures, preferences and product orders. The technology can not only smartly power such routine functions as hand soap dispensing and toilet flushing, but also provide real-time alerts when hand soap or toilet tissue is running low.

Kimberly-Clark Professional unveiled its latest technological advance, Onvation Technology, at ISSA/Interclean. Onvation harnesses machine-to-machine connectivity in a “patent-protected system that delivers real-time data and alerts so building managers can identify and fix restroom problems before they become complaints,” the company writes.

GOJO Industries, the hand hygiene company, demonstrated its SMARTLINK solution at ISSA/Interclean. The company says SMARTLINK “monitors and measures compliance on a community level providing real-time actionable data by floor, unit or room.” In addition, the SMARTLINK Observation System uses mobile technology to facilitate “the electronic collection and collation of hand hygiene and personal protective equipment metrics.”

This type of technology appears to be and advancement that office building occupants want. In a recent survey of 8,000 office workers in major cities around the globe conducted by SCA’s Tork brand, the majority of New York City office workers said increased connectivity and availability makes working lives better, while just over a third of office workers in London said the more things connected to the Internet in the office can have a positive impact on overall hygiene. Office culture–from America to England and beyond–is looking toward technology to improve workplace health.

One way companies may approach that is with a new kind of soap. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have discovered a new kind of soap molecule, which they say could “revolutionize the cleaning industry.” Made from renewable sources like soybeans, coconut and corn, the soap works better than conventional products and is better for the environment. The molecules work well in cold water and are effective, even in low concentrations. The University’s researchers recently patented the soap process and licensed it to a Minneapolis startup company called Sironix Renewables.

But, technology–particularly the IoT–is the primary driver behind the latest developments in the cleaning and maintenance industry. Diamond says that pioneering technology has great potential, but he also points out that AffinEco’s customers are already accustomed to problems being fixed before anyone notices.

“For years now, we’ve relied on advanced communications technology to make our operations more efficient.” Diamond says. “Workers onsite communicate directly to their supervisors, who use smartphones or tablets to report conditions directly to managers, who immediately update our customers.” He acknowledges that communication facilitated by technology enhances quality control, but says the company relies heavily on the judgment and experience of its people to ensure the job is done right. “You just can’t overlook the importance of the human element in the work we do.”

Still, new cleaning industry technology promises to eliminate some of the mistakes that humans can make. One example is Diversy Care’s J-Flex system, which automatically mixes and dilutes pre-determined portions of chemicals. “This helps to improve accuracy and reduces the risk of over-consumption and waste,” according to Michael Bertucci, the company’s Director of Dosing and Dispensing.

Property owners, managers and tenants continue to show a greater interest in the health of buildings and their occupants. Any technology that offers the potential to improve cleaning service delivery and building/occupant health at a cost-efficient rate is an advancement AffinEco is eager to explore. With the right blend of technology and human interaction, AffinEco will keep providing its customers smart, clean and healthy options.

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