The high-tech office

23 July 2018

Offices are becoming “smarter” all the time as the Internet of Things is increasingly being used to control heating, lighting and other services. But can data-driven solutions improve cleaning and hygiene efficiency in the office as well, asks Stuart Hands from Tork manufacturer Essity?

The Internet of Things is revolutionising office buildings. According to new research out in April 2018 around 35 per cent of companies worldwide are currently gathering data on lighting, heating and other services in their offices – or have plans to do so. 

The report, compiled by 451 Research and published in TechRepublic, revealed that using technology to optimise operations had become a top priority for 76 per cent of respondents. Others sought software solutions that would improve security, reduce downtime and offer preventative maintenance.

A growing number of us are understanding how data-driven solutions can help to save both time and money. For example, lighting and heating systems become much more efficient when a building “senses” the presence of people in the vicinity and adjusts the temperature and lighting levels accordingly.

Meanwhile, sensors in meeting rooms can inform employees remotely whether or not these are occupied. This saves office workers a great deal of time that might have been spent searching for an empty room.

And various maintenance tasks can also be streamlined with the aid of data-driven systems. For instance, there are now coffee machines that incorporate sensors to alert staff when they are empty, and ”intelligent” pot plants that remind operatives when they need watering.  

Connected cleaning

Meanwhile in the office washroom, there are also dispensers that inform cleaning staff when supplies of toilet paper, soap or hand towels are running low.

Tork EasyCube is an example of a system that “connects” washrooms via sensors placed in dispensers and on doors. The software continually gathers intelligence on visitor numbers and dispenser refill levels, allowing cleaners to access this information via a smartphone or tablet. This means they are informed in advance about the quantities of soap, hand towels and toilet paper they need to bring with them on their trolley. 

When a washroom cubicle is experiencing particularly high usage, cleaners are quickly alerted to the fact that an extra maintenance check might be required.

Washrooms are just one aspect of the office cleaner’s work, of course. Kitchens, break rooms, meeting areas and desks all need to be regularly cleaned - and the amount of mess created in these environments will depend largely on occupancy levels.

Data-driven systems can help in these areas, too. First of all, the service supplier needs to carry out a complete site review by mapping out the premises and placing sensors in all those areas where they are likely to be needed most. This could include meeting rooms, corridors, break rooms and thresholds for example. 

These sensors then constantly monitor the amount of traffic that each area receives. For example, if a threshold is set to 100 visitors the cleaner will receive an orange alert when 90 people have been counted in, followed by a red alert when the 100th visitor has triggered the sensor. 

Data-driven cleaning is improving efficiency in offices all over Europe. After the installation of Tork EasyCube at Unilever’s headquarters in Hamburg, for example, the corporation was able to cut cleaning rounds from 90 to 68 per day which equated to a 24 per cent reduction. The system also made the cleaners’ lives less stressful since they now have the assurance that supplies of soap, towels and toilet paper will be available 100 per cent of the time.

Within a few years the office environment as we know it will be unrecognisable. Data-driven solutions will revolutionise the workplace and improve systems and efficiencies across the board. And the reduced downtime, enhanced efficiency and ground-breaking technology this brings will only serve to improve the productivity of the nation.