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IoT Advances Open Door to ‘Connected Cleaning’

The value of a clean storefront is immeasurable. With a store’s cleanliness proven to impact consumer shopping and purchasing behaviors, clean facilities help to generate revenue for retailers of all sizes and sectors. As the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart buildings come to life, ‘connected cleaning’ will deliver further increased economic value through reduced costs and better use of resources.

In the years to come, retailers will leverage cleaning equipment that communicates with each other and with other systems in a building. The systems will anticipate needs by scanning the environment, exchanging data and sending instructions on the activities that need to be performed. These developments will pave the way for an autonomous and seamless cleaning operation where machines know when, where and how much to clean. They will gather and combine data from various sensor points in the building – such as electrical systems and weather applications – to predict and adjust the level and frequency of cleaning. The benefits will be more efficient operations, lower costs and more personalized environments.

Bringing connected cleaning to life
Recent advances in IoT technology have enabled smart buildings to become a reality. Right now, the IoT enables technologies like sensors and software to talk to a variety of connected devices. Increased connectivity amongst the devices and systems we use allows lighting and heating systems to automatically turn on and off in buildings, and water pipelines to tell utility companies where a leak is originating.

With the birth of connected cleaning, where IoT endpoints are integrated into cleaning solutions and pieces of equipment, we will see cleaning equipment that communicates with each other and with various systems in a building. This communication and data sharing will enable machines to automatically adapt cleaning schedules to the weather, send performance reports in real time and notify cleaning equipment suppliers when maintenance is needed.

Like all industries, the cleaning sector focuses on leveraging the benefits of new technologies. The development is in part driven by the demand from retailers to deliver more value from cleaning services at the same cost. To meet these demands, both contract cleaners and suppliers are increasingly turning to autonomous and connected cleaning machines to offer more efficient, higher quality cleaning at a lower cost.

Creating value through connected cleaning
Cleaning services today stand to be optimized. The IoT can increase productivity by pushing connected cleaning to provide critical data that will inform cleaning operations and deliver tangible value.

With connectivity, there is far more visibility and control over cleaning assets providing retailers with the opportunity to track whether or not the machine is operating, who is operating it, the location of each machine and the amount of time each machine has been used. While all this data can be used to optimize your cleaning program, data in and of itself is not enough. Instead, the data must be used to create value and deliver better business results.

In a storefront, connected cleaning will enable sensor points at the store entrance to measure cleanliness of the floor then feed this data to the cleaning equipment, which will determine the frequency and extent of cleaning necessary. This automation ensures a high quality clean, while integration with information on the weather enables the cleaning frequency to rise as rain or snow occurs to improve cleanliness and further reduce safety risks due to wet floors. Data gathered from connected cleaning equipment will also track valuable foot traffic patterns within the store, which can be leveraged to predict the need for cleaning.

The future of autonomous storefronts
Over the next decade, we will move toward a digital ecosystem driven by a mega network of connected devices, systems and cognitive computing. Smart buildings will enable an autonomous storefront where back-of-the-house systems for lighting, heating and ventilation use sensors to adjust their settings and performance depending on the number of shoppers in the space resulting in a more personalized and comfortable environment. In the future, connected cleaning will be one of these systems along with security systems and mobility systems, like elevators and escalators.

Buildings, and therefore the storefronts housed within, will continue to become more advanced. As the various systems work together, their data will be combined and used to deliver value through the optimization of cleaning. While retailers will gain valuable insights from the data collected, consumers too will gain a more pleasant and comfortable shopping experience, which in turn is good for business.

Torben Lund Andersen is senior VP of connected autonomous solutions at Nilfisk, a developer of intelligent cleaning solutions.

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