FM Articles

How IoT is Taking Over the Cleaning Industry


The largest cleaning convention in the world, the ISSA Show, was held in November in Las Vegas. Due to the pandemic, this is the first time the show has been held in two years. While it was not a sell-out, it was a highly anticipated and very important show.

Here’s why. Over the past two years, there have been several technological advances in the professional cleaning industry. Some involve new ways to disinfect surfaces. Several new technologies were introduced over the past two years that help eliminate disease-causing pathogens from surfaces.

However, what is likely to be getting even more attention is the role the Internet will play in the professional cleaning industry, specifically as part of the Internet-of-Things (IoT). Cleaning operations are going to be changing significantly, not necessarily in the next few years, but right now.

Most of us are already familiar with IoT and rely on it more than we may realize. For instance, IoT systems can connect sensors, alarms, cameras, lights, and even microphones to smartphones, and those same smartphones can control them.

In a related application, motion detectors are also used in building security systems. The old systems just triggered a warning noise that someone unauthorized might be in the building. But with IoT, warnings along with real-time images of possible intruders are delivered to property owners and facility managers, again via smartphones. This can improve building security immensely.

So, with a better understanding of IoT, where will we see interconnected technology in professional cleaning systems, and how will facility managers and the cleaning contractors maintaining their facilities benefit from these advancements? Here are some examples:

Robotic Floor Cleaning Equipment
Robotic floor machines and now robotic vacuum cleaners are becoming increasingly common. These machines are typically “taught” how to clean specific areas but once educated, they can clean them on their own from thereon. This is why they are called “robotic.” By where does the IoT come in?

These machines collect data which is delivered to different portals via the Internet. They record, for instance, exactly where and when they have been used. Good feedback if a tenant says their offices are not being vacuumed.

Plus, they let facility managers and cleaning crews determine where they are needed most and where they may not be required as frequently. This improves efficiencies. No use having the machine clean floors in an area that is little used when it could be put to better use somewhere else. Improving efficiencies helps keep facilities more hygienic and healthier. Also, once educated, these machines do not need human operators.

Restroom Supply Warnings
One of the things facility managers try to avoid is running out of supplies – soap, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. – in restrooms during the business day. It is often hard to determine how stocked a restroom should be, especially now as people return to the workplace in fits and starts.

IoT technologies are now available that are capable of notifying facility managers when supplies are running low in specific dispensers and restrooms. Plus, just like the robotic equipment, they store this information. The data helps us find out how quickly supplies are used in each restroom, along with what days and what times of each day they are used the most. This helps monitor supplies and ensure no restroom runs out of supplies.

Building Needs
One of our distributor members recently worked with a large hospital campus in Chicago. With winter coming on, hospital administrators wanted to install high-performance matting at all building entries on the campus. High-performance matting is typically higher quality, and it is purchased. This means hospital administrators must make wise purchasing decisions. Guesswork won’t do the job.

Further, matting costs are based on the length of the mats and the length of the mat length is determined by the amount of foot traffic entering each facility.

The hospital had no idea how many people entered and exited each building on campus. To address this, sensors were installed at all building entries.

The sensors collected data that was transmitted over the Internet to facility administrators and the distributor. Now they knew exactly the amount of foot traffic in each building, the busiest times of the day, and which days were the most active. The administrators could now make entry mat purchasing decisions based on data, rather than guesswork, which saved them a significant sum.

Indoor Air Quality
The Healthy Schools Campaign and Green Seal®, the leading Green certification organization, reports that about half the schools in the U.S. have poor indoor air quality. This is affecting student performance and causing as many as ten million missed school days annually.

An effective cleaning program aims to ensure healthy air quality, whether in schools, office buildings, or any other type of commercial facility. Fortunately, IoT has come to the rescue here as well. Systems are available that monitor air quality throughout the day and at different points in the facility, noting if, for example, gases or air pollutants such as carbon, nitrogen, or sulfur oxides have reached harmful levels, where and if air quality changes throughout the day, what factors might be causing these changes, and more.

The information is then collected and shared via IoT with facility administrators, cleaning professionals, and key stakeholders. Changes are made as necessary to ensure acceptable indoor air quality and the health of the entire facility is maintained.

Waste Monitoring
Are you aware of what is often the most time-consuming cleaning task? It’s collecting waste – trash deposited in waste cans and desks, restrooms, food service areas, and around the building.

What if we had a way to let us know which trash cans need emptying and which do not?

Now we do. IoT systems can monitor the “fill levels” of different trash containers throughout the facility. This helps the custodial worker in many ways. For instance:

  • Now, based on fill levels, they know which trash cans need emptying and which do not. This is both a worker productivity enhancement and a cost savings.
  • The process also helps reduce the number of trash liners used, another cost savings.
  • With the data collected, managers can purchase trash liners and related products and as needed and never run short.

IoT Value Based on the Distributor
The way facility managers need to look at IoT is as an investment. They are getting a much better insight into their total building operations. This can help save costs, improve worker productivity, enhance user satisfaction, and, we should add, put out some fires and emergencies – like paper shortages – that we don’t want to see happen.

However, to take advantage of all that IoT can offer, it is crucial to work with a distributor well-versed on IoT and the different systems available. Trial-and-error purchasing can prove wasteful and disappointing. Work with someone who knows the ins-and-outs of this technology, and there is no better person than an experienced janitorial distributor.

Michael Wilson is Vice President of Marketing and Packaging for AFFLINK, a distributor-based global leader in marketing packaging, cleaning products, and technologies that improve building efficiencies. He can be reached through his company website at