A hands-free future is here
07 May 2015
Sealed Air is so convinced that artificial intelligence technology is the future of the cleaning and hygiene industry that it has joined forces with a pioneer in robotic floor-cleaning machines. Cleaning Matters reports from the global launch in Switzerland
At an event held in Zurich on 15th April to mark the 60th anniversary of its TASKI brand of floor-cleaning machines, Sealed Air announced to the world that it has entered the industrial robotics arena. The corporation has acquired Intellibot Robotics LLC, a US-based privately owned company that has pioneered the development of commercial floor-cleaning robots.
The acquisition includes certain intellectual property, the manufacturing operations in Virginia as well as sales, production and engineering staff. The business will be integrated into Sealed Air’s Diversey Care division and its TASKI floor cleaning machines. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
According to Sealed Air, the demand for automated cleaning machines is growing rapidly in the world’s developed countries due to significant advances in technology, labour shortages and the need for higher productivity in daily cleaning tasks.
Intellibot’s value proposition is based on "hands-free cleaning" robots, which are designed to improve the economics of cleaning by reducing labour costs and increasing productivity. It is also claimed that the robots use up to 85% less water and chemicals, while their ability to work in the dark could also reduce electricity costs and stop cleaning operatives having to work unsociable hours.
Dr. Ilham Kadri, Diversey Care President, said at the launch: "Our industry expertise, global reach, design and manufacturing capabilities combined with Intellibot’s groundbreaking artificial intelligence technology will help accelerate the development of the robotic floor-cleaning machines market, ultimately driving efficiencies and business value for our industry."
Intellibot has developed three machines: HydroBot, a scrubber for hard surfaces; DuoBot, a sweeper/scrubber for hard surfaces; and AeroBot, a true vacuum for carpeted surfaces. Approximately 200 of these machines are already being used around the world to make simple tasks more efficient.
The machines allow the operator to quickly switch between manual cleaning and hands-free cleaning using an icon-based touchscreen. Staff can push a button and walk away to perform more detailed, specialist cleaning in other areas while the floor is cleaned by the robot – facilitating multi-tasking. Remote assistance accessed via the touchscreen also provides around-the-clock monitoring of machine cleaning activity.
The robots' Hands-Free Cleaning Operating System (OS) incorporates up to 19 sensors, giving the robot a 360-degree view of its surroundings, and allowing it to operate and clean on its own at an average speed of 10,000 square feet an hour. Sensors detect obstacles as well as people – stopping to let them pass before proceeding – and stairs.
The range of Intellibot machines developed under the TASKI brand will be unveiled in the coming months. Diversey Care believes the robots are suitable for cleaning wide, open spaces in a variety of environments including airports, schools, hospitals, shopping centres and other high traffic areas.
Internet of Clean
Various manufacturers have experimented with robotics, but cost has traditionally been a key obstacle to their uptake by contract cleaners. Dr. Ilham Kadri explained that the cleaning industry needs to start looking at the "total cost of ownership" offered by "smart solutions" rather than the price per unit at the outset.
This way of thinking forms the basis for Diversey Care's 'Internet of Clean' concept. This new platform connects machines, dispensers, sensors, beacons and other smart devices to achieve broad insight into equipment, consumption and operations.
"The insights given by the data from connected devices give real and immediately quantifiable value to our customers, and allow them to raise the overall qualitative standards, yet lower the total cost of cleaning and hygiene regimes," Dr Ilham Kadri said.
The first solution released under the 'Internet of Clean' is Intellitrail – a machine-tracking solution that enables businesses to locate, monitor and manage their fleet of machines. The Intellibot robotic machines will also form a key part of the 'Internet of Clean' going forward.
By acquiring Intellibot Robotics, Diversey Care has taken a decisive step forward in making the connected future a reality for the commercial cleaning industry. Whether the industry is ready to take advantage of this technology will be interesting to observe in the coming months.