Connected products take washroom facilities into the digital age
For facility managers and patrons alike, there is nothing worse than a poorly maintained restroom. Leaks, out of order signs and wet floors can disgruntle even the most passive guests, and if gone unchecked, can cost facilities valuable time and money to fix.
Throw in a pandemic and the restroom environment becomes more about a touchless experience. According to a recent Deloitte survey, a clean, hands-free experience matters more than social distancing or computer screening upon entry into a business.
The last thing that comes to mind when you think of smart IoT applications are smart devices in a public restroom, but that’s changing.
Zurn has introduced its Connected line of products, consisting of faucets, flush valves and backflow preventers, which use a series of sensors to monitor performance and water use, then analyze the data to deliver real-time insights on the status of the plumbing and fixtures in the building.
According to Adam Findlay, Zurn’s digital sales manager, Canada, with real-time information about activations and water usage, facility managers can track trends, schedule maintenance and invite other employees into the online portal to keep staff up to date and on task.
“Connected products are a real game changer for facility owners and managers,” he adds. “Our users are able to manage water and human resources more efficiently and can identify and address small problems before they become big issues—which can ultimately lead to a significant savings over the life cycle of the product.
Other benefits include: installation flexibility (new build or retrofit); predictive maintenance; parts replacement; flood prevention (with automatic shut off); and cost optimization (with analytics).
The brains behind the operation is Zurn’s plumbSMART app, which is connected to three product categories—faucets, flush valves and backflow prevention. From there, the data is sent to a secure Zurn Cloud. The Cloud analyzes the data to deliver real-time insights to the app, which can be viewed on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
“It can tell you how much water a certain fixture is using, how often it is being used,” says Findlay. “It’s a unique system in that someone operating a facility can—at a glance— see how all of their plumbing fixtures are performing in real time. It’s a virtual room inspection.”
It also allows facility managers to allocate their maintenance budgets appropriately. And they can schedule maintenance based on demand, rather than an arbitrary schedule.
“It’s about doing more with less,” says Findlay.
Having a touchless environment in a commercial restroom means faucets and smart sensors are pushing the envelope when it comes to reliability and looks.
“In the commercial setting, we’re noticing that style is important,” says Teresita Deogradres, product manager – chinaware, commercial with American Standard, part of Lixil Canada Inc.
“The style in commercial restrooms is really moving away from that institutional look to a more aesthetically appealing faucet.”
But it’s what is inside that counts.
Both American Standard’s Paradigm and Serin faucets feature Selectronic sensors integrated into the design, which makes them hands-free.
“Our [commercial] product pipeline is definitely focused on touchless products,” says Deogradres.
With the Paradigm faucet, the installer is able to adjust the water temperature and the handle can be removed making it vandalproof and the sensor is pre-programmed for water flow level and the proximity of the user.
The Serin faucet features the Selectronic sensor in the faucet spout itself, which allows for a more streamlined style, according to Deogradres. “It can be deck-mounted or wallmounted.”
With the sensor being in the faucet spout it automatically sets the detection range by evaluating the surroundings and it also recalibrates to compensate for soap, water drops and dirt on the sensor lens.
There are definitely hygienic benefits to having a smart restroom, “Which are obviously important these days,” says Findlay.
And that keeps operations running smoothly, whether you’re at an airport, a healthcare facility or a university. But most importantly, it means happy customers too.
“It means less ‘out of order’ signs and fewer Instagram posts of flooded restrooms.”