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Smart Restrooms: The Connected Facility of the Future


Smart Restrooms Smart Restrooms

Increased health awareness stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has placed greater emphasis on commercial restroom design, including the demand for touchless and self-cleaning fixtures. Now, the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) technology in restrooms takes that one step further by providing remote, real-time visibility into conditions and overall usage patterns. With this data, janitors and maintenance staff can service restrooms more efficiently and spend more time focusing on other important cleaning tasks.

How do smart restrooms work?

Smart restroom technology is bringing a new generation of IoT systems to buildings to help conserve water and reduce health and hygiene concerns. By connecting multiple devices and applications, smart restrooms create a robust system of on-demand washroom management, including: 

Connected dispensers keep a running log of soap, toilet paper, hand towels and other product levels and can alert staff when it’s due for a refill or new battery. 

Touchless fixtures with maintenance indicators and IoT connectivity can simplify and improve maintenance. Faucets, flush valves and other fixtures integrated with IoT technology can monitor water flow and immediately alert maintenance workers if a plumbing issue arises.

Smart toilets help conserve water by using sensors that automatically flush when a user moves away from the toilet. Smart toilets have several advantages, including advanced flush options, over-flow protection, plus many extra features like heated seats, bidets, remote controls, a nightlight, speakers, self-cleaning modes and more. Advanced smart toilets like The Wellness Toilet concept introduced at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show promise to analyze a user’s output and provide tailored health recommendations via an app. 

IoT sensors installed throughout restrooms can help detect leaks. Placing a flat, half-inch square sensor in leak-prone areas in your facility to monitor for moisture can help alert you before a leak becomes a bigger problem.

Non-intrusive traffic counters help monitor bathroom occupancy and measure usage in real time. These technologies help enhance the overall user experience and provide valuable usage data to help with staffing and maintenance scheduling.

Data analytics platforms provide facility managers with the real-time data and visibility they need to continually improve operations. 

Mobile apps provide constant communication with cleaning and maintenance staff, contributing to more proactive cleaning and faster product replenishment.

As labor shortages make it tougher to keep cleaning and maintenance departments fully staffed, facility managers are learning to do more with less. Implementing IoT restroom technology provides facilities with the following advantages:

Modernized infrastructure: IoT devices can help improve water utility management, planning and overall health. Real-time data and insights can help maintenance staff identify areas that require immediate attention. This technology can help reduce water waste, help keep workers safer and more productive, and prevent contaminants from reaching consumers. 

Improved efficiency: Smart restrooms use real-time data to make the best use of workers’ time and improve efficiency. Real-time visibility also helps ensure the appropriate amount of product is stocked, helping to significantly reduce waste and increase cost savings.  

Demand-focused: Knowing which restrooms people are using most allows you to focus cleaning efforts based on demand. 

Cleaner facilities: Smart restrooms offer a cleaner experience by providing responsive and preventative maintenance, helping reduce customer complaints. 

What is smart plumbing?

According to the EPA, restroom fixtures represent more than one-third of the water usage in hospitals, office buildings and schools, making them key focus area for water conservation. This is particularly true for older buildings with inefficient toilets, urinals, faucets, shower head fixtures and other equipment.

Features like motion detection, cycle timing, low-flow and dual flush options help reduce water usage in commercial and institutions. Traditional fixtures with these features are not necessarily "smart," however. Smart plumbing fixtures must be internet-connected to collect and share real-time data like usage patterns to help maintain efficient cleaning schedules or to perform predictive maintenance.

Important Considerations

As the cost of connected technologies and sensors decrease, IoT technology is becoming more widely available to help facility managers maintain facilities, conserve water, reduce energy and improve their bottom line. One research report estimates almost 90 percent of buildings now use at least one form of smart building technology. Experts estimate by 2023, over 1.4 billion connected devices will be installed in commercial buildings across the U.S.

However, managers must set goals and establish priorities before choosing a connected restroom dispenser or other IoT-enabled technology. Managers determine if it’s possible to adjust sensor settings, adjust water run times or choose from pre-set modes like water saving or partial flush modes. There are also potential user privacy and cybersecurity concerns that can arise by adding additional smart devices to your network. It’s also important to find a partner or manufacturer to help identify products and provide ongoing support, training and easy access to maintenance parts.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.