Few sectors got a bigger boost from the pandemic than the cleaning industry. It felt like one of COVID’s lasting impacts on the world would be an elevated level of hygiene and investment in R&D duly followed by new and established players.
Now approaching 2024, we are seeing that investment come to fruition through a range of innovative technologies that have entered the space. In this research note, we track recent potentially disruptive solutions in the cleaning industry.
Cleaning Industry: Robotics
Building from safety and social distancing foundations, robotics has become a big focus for the cleaning industry. Autonomous robots or collaborative (cobots) mean fewer human workers exposed to fewer infected surfaces, which is a win for employee safety and labor costs. In terms of hygiene, the technology has advanced rapidly in the last few years as investment and demand rose, resulting in a range of new robotic solutions in the cleaning industry.
Japan-based Softbank Robotics now offers an array of robotic cleaning solutions, such as ‘Whiz’ developed in collaboration with Whiz Solutions. Whiz is an autonomous vacuuming robot that uses AI and sensors to navigate obstacles and clean floors efficiently.
Ecovacs Robotics also provides robotic vacuum cleaners and window cleaners for use in commercial buildings. Their range of products utilize advanced sensors and mapping technology to navigate spaces, and clean floors and windows autonomously.
Tennant Company has focused more on robotic floor scrubbers and sweepers for commercial and industrial cleaning. Their robotic solutions offer efficient and effective cleaning that can significantly reduce labor costs and promise to improve cleaning outcomes.
Avidbots, meanwhile, specializes in autonomous floor-cleaning robots for larger spaces, such as airports and shopping malls. Their flagship product, the Neo robot, is able to autonomously clean these complex commercial spaces using advanced mapping and navigation technology.
Brain Corp has also focused on intelligence with its AI-powered autonomous cleaning robots with BrainOS platform. Their technology enables the robot cleaners to operate at a higher level of autonomy, raising productivity and reducing the need for manual intervention.
And in rubbish collection, CleanRobotics has developed a smart waste bin called "TrashBot." TrashBot uses AI and computer vision to sort and separate recyclable materials from general waste, thereby improving waste management processes in commercial spaces.
Cleaning Industry: Smart Restrooms
Restrooms are a critical element of building hygiene, a space where cleaning is a fundamental process for basic operation. Numerous firms are now targeting the segment with a range of new technologies that are driving us into a smart restroom era.
Kimberly-Clark offers their broad Onvation Smart Restroom Management System. The system utilizes IoT sensors to monitor restroom usage, supply levels, and maintenance needs in real time. In doing so, it provides data-driven insights to optimize cleaning schedules, reduce waste, and enhance the overall restroom experience.
Essity also provides IoT-enabled restroom hygiene solutions through their Tork EasyCube system. Similarly, this system IoT utilizes sensors in restrooms to monitor consumable levels, traffic patterns, and cleaning needs. It provides real-time data and analytics to optimize cleaning operations, reduce costs, and improve the user experience.
Another competitor is GP PRO, offering the KOLO Smart Monitoring System for restroom management. This system also utilizes IoT data to monitor traffic, supply levels, cleaning needs, and also provides real-time data and alerts to optimize cleaning schedules, improve resource allocation, and enhance restroom hygiene.
Finally, within the restroom space, SavorTex provides smart hand dryers with various IoT capabilities. By incorporating sensors to monitor usage, energy consumption, and maintenance needs, they help optimize cleaning schedules, reduce energy waste, and improve general restroom hygiene.
Cleaning Industry: Analytics
The integration of cleaning systems into the wider smart building opens the door to advanced analytics, which is a game-changer for the cleaning industry. As part of the Internet of Things (IoT), the cleaning industry can access a huge collection of real-time and historical data to feed into AI and ML systems to create unprecedented optimization of cleaning processes. A new range of solutions have emerged to embed cleaning into the smart building ecosystem.
Density is an occupancy analytics provider, well-known for its anonymity features, that has recently moved into the cleaning industry space with their Adaptive Cleaning technology. The occupancy-based platform detects unused spaces, generates an automatic cleaning plan and estimates the value of a more efficient operation.
Singapore-based Simpple was originally focused on robotic cleaning, but the company soon shifted to an integrated software solution that connects IoT devices, robotic solutions, and the workforce, through a single unified platform, enabled by AI. The company has had significant success and filed for an IPO in April 2023 while it expands internationally.
In smaller niches, Vectair Systems offers IoT-enabled air care and hygiene solutions. Their V-Air SOLID Plus system utilizes sensors to monitor air quality, fragrance levels, and refill needs. Providing real-time data and alerts to optimize air quality and reduce waste.
And, Diversey offers IoT-based cleaning and hygiene solutions, such as the IntelliCare system to monitor hand hygiene compliance, cleaning activities, and consumable levels. The data collected helps improve cleaning efficiency, reduce waste, and enhance overall hygiene.
Cleaning Industry: Lighting
Robotics overlaps with lighting via UVC technology. The sun emits three types of UV light; UVA makes up the majority, UVB is credited with causing sunburn and cancer, and UVC is even more harmful but largely blocked by the ozone layer. Humans have not evolved to handle UVC exposure but neither have most viruses and bacteria, making UVC-light disinfection an effective tool for the cleaning industry and best delivered without humans present.
UVD Robots has released a range of autonomous UVC disinfection robots. Adding UVC to robots allows them to move around the space, able to shine a light on dark and dynamic areas of the room in a way that stationary solutions cannot.
Newer companies have also emerged, such as Xenex which have developed their LightStrike+ UVC-enabled robot, which uses “pulsed xenon UV light” to destroy viruses, bacteria, and spores on surfaces as it navigates the room autonomously.
Major players such as Signify, the Philips Lighting spin-off, for example, also now offer a range of lighting solutions that incorporate UVC disinfection technology. Their UV-C lighting products are designed to disinfect surfaces but also air handling units and ventilation systems.