The role of the smartphone

17th of January 2019
The role of the smartphone
The role of the smartphone

Practically everyone today has a smartphone, and these ubiquitous devices are used for everything from communication to game-playing and information-gathering to navigation. But how far have they encroached on to the world of cleaning, asks Ann Laffeaty?

Glance around any train carriage, shopping centre, bus, street or waiting room and at least half the people you see will be interacting with their smartphone.

Some will be listening to music while others will be playing games, watching video clips, visiting social media sites or communicating with friends.

It has also become second nature for us to use our phones as information resources and as a navigational aid. So it comes as no surprise that they are increasingly being tapped into by companies in a bid to improve their working systems.

The cleaning industry is no exception and the smartphone is now being used for various applications such as staff and machine tracking. High pressure cleaner manufacturer DiBO uses a track-and-trace system to allow machine owners to pinpoint the exact location of a trailer via a smartphone, for example. This also enables company managers to remotely view faults, see the history of driven routes and monitor the machine’s working hours.

Meanwhile, Fimap’s My.Machine app provides product and operational information via mobile devices. And Telelog offers mobile applications for staff tracking, lone worker protection and service auditing via a smartphone at the client’s site.

As “smart buildings” become increasingly common, one company has even come up with an air fragrancing system that can be operated via a smartphone. SMW’s Smart Scent diffuser comes in a CleverScent version that can be operated and controlled directly from a mobile phone app using a Wi-Fi connection says operations manager Clément Janin.

“The app allows the cleaner or facility manager to turn the machine on or off and adjust the diffusion intensity from one per cent to 100 per cent depending on the size of the room you need to scent,” he said. “It also allows you to programme the required operating days and hours in advance and it provides access to consumption tables, troubleshooting tips, FAQs and supporting tools that can be helpful for cleaning companies and maintenance staff.”

According to Janin the app is particularly user-friendly and may be operated by both the service company and the end-user. “We sell the scent diffuser through our distributor network and it is for them to decide if they want to allow their clients to control the machine or keep control of
it themselves.”

The app is currently designed for use with the company’s 80 ml fragrance oil refill but SMW wants to develop smartphone applications and remote control systems for all its future scent diffusers. The advantage of using a smartphone is that it can make installation and maintenance both easier and faster, he says.

Familiar with digital devices

“Since it is important to find the right scenting level whenever a new machine is installed, service company staff are able to increase or decrease the fragrance diffusion intensity from their own office without having to visit the client again,” said Janin. “They can also carry out maintenance work remotely - for example, they can check whether the machine is on or off and ensure that it is only working during the predetermined hours.”

According to IPC communications manager Gabriella Bianco there are a whole host of cleaning tasks that can now be monitored via a smartphone or tablet. “Cleaners have become more familiar with digital devices via their daily use of smartphones, and this can easily cross over into their cleaning activities,” she said.

“For example they can check what to clean, what to refill and what needs replacing – such as rubbish bags, for instance – via a tablet or a mobile connected to sensor devices. Indoor positioning systems can also pinpoint the location of people and objects via sensors linked to smartphones. And mobiles are also useful from a security point of view: if someone breaks into a warehouse, sensors will detect this and the facilities manager will receive a text alert about the break-in.”

Greater control

Another manufacturer using smartphones and tablets in its systems is Essity. The company’s Tork EasyCube facility management software provides cleaners and managers with real-time information on cleaning and dispenser refill needs via connected devices. These are continually monitoring visitor traffic and dispenser refill levels.

The main advantages of Tork EasyCube is that it gives cleaners and managers greater control over the workplace while making cleaners’ lives easier and allowing them to become more efficient and productive, says European marketing manager Anna Konigson Koopmans.

“We upgrade our offer several times a year and we’ve formed a partnership with Microsoft to allow us to leverage the power of big data and cloud computing,” she adds.

But what are the challenges associated with the use of a smartphone by cleaning staff?  For example, should they use their own phones at work, or be equipped with devices lent to them by employers? If they use their own phones, will data charges be an issue? And will they be tempted to check their own personal messages and even their social media channels when they should be working?

Software developer Telelog concedes that these points all need to be addressed. Telelog offers mobile applications for staff tracking, lone worker protection and service auditing via a smartphone.
“When dealing with a remote workforce you cannot ensure that all staff will have a smartphone or access to the internet,” she said. “And if they do – and you dictate that cleaners must use an app via their private phone - there may be some mobile contract expenses to cover which are hard to quantify.

“Also, when customers witness members of the cleaning staff checking their mobile phones on site this might be construed as a sign of low productivity.”

Essity works around this issue by promoting the uses of company tablets in place of smartphones. “These become work tools that are designed to help employees carry out a better job, so our
customers make sure that all staff members have a tablet they can use,” said Konigson Koopmans.
“This can either be purchased by the customer themselves or bought from Essity together with a tablet holder.

“This tablet can then be locked in place on the cleaning trolley where it is always available to hand. And it can be set to constantly display the relevant cleaning plans and real-time information via the Tork EasyCube application with all other surfing options disabled.”

Werner & Mertz offers a mobile tool that allows customers to calculate their CO2 savings when using the company’s products. The green-Effective Performance Calculator can be used on a smartphone, tablet or laptop says sustainability manager Christopher Luening.

“Most people nowadays have access to a smartphone and these devices have become part of our daily lives,” he said. “This makes it a natural location for storing information. Taking the speed and ease of use of the cellphone into the equation we see that it offers many benefits over traditional folders or standard web applications designed for PCs.”

Ownership issues

Whether cleaners use their own smartphones or devices supplied by the company largely depends on the rules set down by the employer, he says.

“Memory on existing smartphones is limited, and this can be a problem when storing large videos and documents,” he said. “But by keeping document and file sizes at the lower end of the spectrum and by using a high degree of compression we have been able to achieve a reasonable usage of data. And we have built in a very fast QR code reader into our app.”

The ownership of smartphones used in SMW’s remote diffusing systems is at the company’s own discretion says Clement Janin. “However we think in the future, companies will provide dedicated smartphones or tablets to their staff,” he said. “As for our own app, this has been developed to pilot machines remotely which means the data usage remains low compared with other apps and this does not become a problem.”

Companies are convinced that the use of smartphones in cleaning will only grow in future.

“We believe that digital devices will become as natural work tools as a cleaning trolleys,” said Essity’s Anna Konigson Koopmans. “They will become indispensable for knowing what is needed, when and where. We also foresee that many more data sources will become available and these will allow staff to carry out their work in a more efficient way.”

There is definite demand for increased use of connected devices both from the market and from clients, adds SMW’s Clement Janin. “There is a rapidly-growing need for connected products and dedicated smartphone apps which will bring the benefits of easier maintenance and lower service costs.

“Meanwhile these apps will make the lives of cleaning and maintenance staff easier and will improve the perception of the industry.”

He believes most products needing regular maintenance will adopt smartphone or remote management apps in the future. “Cleaning and air care products are already one step into the information age, and this will become one of the main trends in the cleaning industry of tomorrow.”

• This article is part of the 2018 ECJ supplement Cleaning in the Digital World. Click here to read it.


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