Disinfecting has never been more critical than it is in a COVID-19 world. The pandemic has created a heightened expectation for levels of cleanliness. Employees and employers alike need assurance that their workplaces are safe, not only now, but also after the virus finally eases up and more workers return to their offices and facilities.
Instead of seeing this new reality as a problem, the building operations industry is using it as an opportunity to implement emerging technology that revolutionizes disinfecting services for commercial and industrial settings. While there are still a number of unknowns ahead for the facilities operations industry, here are four innovations we predict will make a difference in the months ahead.
1. Autonomous Foggers and Scrubbers
Designed to be used overnight, autonomous foggers and scrubbers—essentially, disinfecting robots—spray a fog of disinfecting and sanitizing agents as they snake their way through rooms and passageways. These machines can be programmed to undock from their charging stations and follow a digitally mapped path throughout the building.
Because they are fully autonomous, these robotic foggers and scrubbers can monitor their level of spray, coverage area and battery life. They automatically return to the docking station when recharging, refilling or both is necessary. Multiple units can be programmed and maintained by a single worker. More importantly, the robots eliminate the need for prolonged human exposure to highly concentrated chemicals.
2. UV Robots
A more recent and ideal innovation has been to equip robots with ultraviolet (UV) light attachments. Specifically, ultraviolet-c (UVC) effectively kills germs and viruses such as COVID-19, and it can reach areas that scrubbers and misters may miss or treat inadequately. UVC exposure can be harmful to humans, so rooms and buildings must be cleared of all occupants before UVC treatment is activated.
Studies of both UV and UVC light treatments say they kill 99.9 percent of all germs and viruses. Like the robotic scrubbers, UV robots launch from a docking station and scan the environment using multiple lidar sensors and an array of UV lamps mounted on top. This combination of sensors and lamps allows the machines to operate uninterrupted for up to eight hours. There are also no chemical residues left behind or waste to dispose of because the UV robots render germs and viruses inert, and thus harmless.
Despite all of these advantages, the main downside is the cost for each UV robot. Although there are some lower-priced models beginning to hit the market, most models that are available and in use today can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For example, the UV robots employed by hospitals can run well in excess of $80,000.
3. Photocatalytic Converters
A wide range of disinfecting products on the market rely on photocatalytic oxidation, which uses ultraviolet (UV) light to energize titanium dioxide. In turn, that converts airborne germs, viruses and pollutants into harmless carbon dioxide and water. These purifiers have become staples in hospitals, health clinics and food and beverage installations, and they are now being made available for commercial and industrial use.
Photocatalytic converters can also be inserted into an existing HVAC system. As air is drawn through the ducts into an occupied space, it travels through the UV light emanating from this photocatalytic converting unit. The air is purified, decreasing the amount of germs and viruses before it enters the room.
4. Cleaning Verification and Tracking Applications
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has also been an increased reliance of mobile applications and software to help track and assess risk. This technology has also made its way into providing facilities operations staff with quality assurance, tracking, and verification apps. Even the Environmental Protection Agency has developed their own online, searchable tool that lists and evaluates cleaning products’ effectiveness against COVID-19.
These easy to use, integrated mobile apps are able to integrate into existing management software and utilize wireless technology to facilitate communications between teams, track cleaning efforts, and consolidate and visualize data to help optimize cleaning and preventive efforts. There are also mobile cleaning verification systems that can evaluate the effectiveness of cleaning materials and ensure compliance with standardized cleaning protocols.
Take the Next Step
These are just a few of the latest innovations in disinfecting technology, but it is important to balance the effectiveness that each new tool brings with the unique disinfection needs of your workplace. This is especially important as there is no disinfection method that is 100 percent effective in eradicating all viruses and bacteria on its own.
However, a combination of these new tools with your existing methodologies can certainly help to increase the effectiveness of your mitigation efforts. Taking it one step further, a partner like Able Services can help your team to build and execute a comprehensive disinfection strategy that is tailored for your needs and up to the challenge ahead.