Making Airports Safe Again
How Smart Washrooms are boosting traveler confidence as we take to the skies once again.
Over the last few months, global travel has resumed to some degree. The once deserted airport terminals are slowly but surely filling up. However, the way we approach travel, like everything else post-COVID, is very different.
Passenger health and safety remain paramount, and with social distancing at the forefront of everyone’s minds, airports have adapted the way they operate to ensure crowding and passenger density don’t put people at risk. Improvements to the efficiency and effectiveness of the cleanliness of airports are also major factors in regaining passenger trust, with a recent study by Engine Insights showing that almost 80%1 of passengers surveyed stated that airport and aircraft disinfection procedures were their number one consideration for flying again, ranking it as more important than things like airfares, scheduling and customer service.
Technology in the airport
With a clear need to prioritize safety and cleanliness, technology and real-time monitoring have been key additions within airports, to allow management to assess passenger movements and address sanitization protocols. Systems are in place to prevent things like crowding at the gate, and to gauge occupancy in airport shops and waiting areas. But there is one place that technology can, and already has in some of the world’s busiest airports, protect the public from the spread of the virus, and that is the washroom.
By being able to monitor the occupancy of washrooms, airport staff and the public can understand the number of people visiting a facility at any one time. This gives the user piece of mind that they have a safe place to practice good hand hygiene, one of the most valuable lessons learnt during the pandemic, and supports airport staff as they ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to throughout the airport building.
So how does it work? A quick and easy-to-install display screen is fitted at the washroom entrance, which indicates to the public the number of people currently inside. Once maximum occupancy is reached, as determined by the current government social distancing guidelines, the display screen notifies the user and indicates where the nearest alternative washroom is. As the data is in real-time, it can also indicate which washroom has the lowest occupancy to ensure people are sent in the right direction and prevents queues from forming.
Effective and Efficient
Washroom Occupancy technology is a cost-effective way to not only make sure the public have safe access to hand washing facilities, but to allow operating efficiencies to be achieved as well. Maintenance schedules of cleaning staff can be adapted by monitoring real-time usage data, allowing more efficient allocation of staff, when and where they are needed. Looking beyond monitoring occupancy, the entire Smart Washroom customized technology solution is ideal for areas with large footfall, with real-time data not only improving customer satisfaction, but supporting operational efficiencies and reducing costs.
Sensors which monitor taps, flushes, soap and hand towel dispensers, allow staff to remotely monitor levels and usage. The technology sends alerts to staff when consumables levels are running low, meaning a reduction in the need to check dispensers unnecessarily (also reducing surface contact and potentially the spread of infection) and facilitating more effective time management. By only restocking when necessary, waste can be reduced, offering the added benefit of environmental efficiencies. Technology can also be fitted to washroom equipment, so an alert is sent to facilities management staff when an issue is detected. This ensures the problem is sorted immediately, before a major issue develops, often extending the life of equipment and reducing the number of major repairs needed.
Cost effectiveness in practice
VERTECO’s Smart Washroom technology, including occupancy sensors, has been installed at one of the world’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, since early 2019. Initially installed as an effective way of reducing operating costs on a large scale, the system has put the airport ahead of the game in terms addressing passenger safety and hygiene post-COVID.
Steven Mearns, Head of Engineering and Facilities explains...
“Having tried a number of IoT enabled products in the past, I was skeptical it wouldn’t cope with the demands of a busy airport environment. Based on the VERTECO Smart Platform in a high traffic landside washroom, I confirm the platform helped identify patterns and trends, adjusted planned maintenance schedules, avoided us running out of consumables and also saved substantial amounts of water in the process. This has also assisted us in our water reduction targets, reducing operational costs and improving passenger experience. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the system has provided our passengers with a safe space to practice hand hygiene and this, in return has increased their confidence and experience in the airport.”
As shown in the terminals of Heathrow, the addition of technology in – and outside – the washroom is a simple, cost-effective and efficient way to support public safety and regain their trust, in the busiest of places.