‘Autonomous Cleaning’ Increases Efficiencies, Streamlines Operations

Over the next decade, “smart buildings” – buildings powered by connected devices, systems and cognitive computing – will be the most visible example of ecosystems powered through the Internet of Things (IoT) and the vastly growing number of connected endpoints. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the use of IoT applications in offices could have an economic impact of $150 billion in 2025 due to benefits such as improved productivity and better use of assets.

Today, many buildings have already implemented systems for lighting, heating and ventilation that use sensors to adjust their settings and performance relative to the number of people in the building, reducing energy use and increasing operational efficiencies. Consider the endless possibilities: lighting and heating that automatically turn on and off, saving energy; manufacturing plants connected to each other with collective spare parts management; water pipelines that tell utility companies where there is a leak. As the impact of this expanding digital footprint continues, the cleaning industry is a natural place to implement levels of autonomy within smart buildings. Through this evolution of connected cleaning, there are three logical phases of implementation.

Today: Intelligent fleet management

With connectivity, cleaning equipment provides visibility and control over cleaning assets in a way that was not possible just a few years ago. If you wanted information on how your staff and cleaning machines were performing, you did that manually – with each team, at each location, for each machine. Today, though, connectivity allows cleaners to optimize their programs and energy use with new levels of insight, including whether machines are working properly, which operator is in charge of the machine, the location of each machine and the time and number of hours a machine has been used.

Through this data, managers can operate and streamline cleaning programs. As smart buildings continue to become a part of everyday life, connected cleaning will pave the way for phase two.

Tomorrow: Increasing integration will shift business models

As the number of endpoints continues to rise, the volume, use and consumption of data will increase. Simultaneously, increased integration among connected devices will drive connected cleaning, which will help make the remote monitoring and predictive maintenance of cleaning machines possible within smart buildings. Remote monitoring is the combination of connectivity with autonomous machines. Based on the data collected, equipment suppliers will be able to track machine performance and adjust remotely to optimize performance, without interrupting the end customer using the machine. Predictive maintenance enables the supplier to remotely check the condition of cleaning machines, anticipate their failures and forecast which parts need changing, and when, all without disturbing the end user.

This combination of remote monitoring and predictive maintenance will change the cleaning industry’s business models, as customers will purchase cleaning uptime rather than a set number of units, changing the total cost of ownership dramatically. As smart buildings become more connected with other machines and systems, it will become easier for building managers to implement and follow a connected cleaning routine.

Looking Ahead: Autonomous cleaning

As the IoT is integrated in more devices, the natural move is towards a digital ecosystem driven by a complete network of connected devices, systems and cognitive computing. Through the combination of these technologies, smart buildings will become a reality, making autonomous cleaning the obvious choice. As buildings become smarter and technology becomes even more engrained in the every day lives of consumers, it makes sense to use machines that know when, where and how much to clean while gathering and combining data from various sensor points in the building. These autonomous machines will be able to scan buildings’ and people’s needs through data and a quick scan of the building environment, ensuring that cleaning and maintenance are always taken care of.

Autonomous cleaning provides the opportunity for a lower-cost, more sustainable operation. As the IoT and smart buildings continue to advance, it’s important that the industry stays in lock-step to drive more efficient operations, lower costs and more personalized environments.

By Torben Lund Andersen, SVP of connected autonomous solutions, Nilfisk

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