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Microsoft Explores IoT Potential in Smart Bathrooms

Whether you are constructing a new building or remodeling an existing one, Smart Bathrooms are worth a look for process improvements. Not only are they new and exciting, they may actually provide a more relaxing and interactive experience.

Achieving a smart bathroom doesn’t necessarily mean adding technology; intelligent design can create a smart bathroom. A well-placed hook, reducing gaps in stall doors, and placing toilet paper holders so they don’t hit knees are examples of smart solutions that don’t require technology.

Today’s buildings already use technology to improve the restroom experience. Many devices have motion sensors to dispense hands-free paper towels, water, soap, hand dryers, and even auto-flushers. Individually these devices work great, but to unlock the power of technology we need to integrate them with the physical world into a single system.

Even with current technology, there is still room for improvement. Corporate bathrooms are both a shared and personal space; they impact the occupant at many levels. Driven by a desire to provide better services, we focused our attention on our top goal: ensuring the bathrooms are clean and well-stocked. Could we use the Internet of Things (IoT) to make them better?


In preparing for an internal pilot, we first identified the problem we wanted to solve. At the most basic level, we want to provide clean and well-stocked bathrooms. This is what occupants want as well. We required earlier notification when a bathroom needed attention. To that end, janitorial schedules are optimized, leaks are identified and fixed quickly, and construction notices are properly communicated. A clean and available bathroom provides an ideal occupant experience.

We also needed to analyze data and create actions—actions that would lead to a difference in the bathroom experience or a decision that would result in improvements. Some actions could include creating a facilities ticket, adjusting service schedules, creating a purchase order for consumables, or even providing custom digital content.

But collecting data from various devices and viewing a dashboard full of numbers and charts didn’t equate to a better restroom experience for employees; understanding the usage is more important than just counting data points. Ultimately, you want actions that will make a positive difference in the overall employee experience. Implementation of the IoT needs to focus on usage – not numbers.

For example, we could count the number of people that enter the bathroom at the entrance, but a person count isn’t a good measure of usage; it only represents how many people entered the restroom. This assumes that all activity by each person is equivalent to all other activities in the restroom. By knowing if the toilets and urinals were flushed, soap was dispensed, or water flowed in the sink, we can then start to understand actual usage of the restroom.

Which would be more valuable to your goal? To know if 50 people enter the restroom in a one-hour period, or to know if 50 flushes of the toilet occurred in a one-hour period?

Deciding what to measure is easy when you consider what matters to you: determine the action you wish to take and work backwards to conclude which data is needed to fulfill that action.

Looking beyond the immediate problem
At Microsoft’s Real Estate & Facilities division, the IoT is used to enhance the employee experience, save energy and utility costs, and manage buildings more effectively and efficiently. Associated data can provide deep insights, enable better diagnostics, and allow for more intelligent decision making. Using the IoT can provide a better employee experience through customization and automation.

The goal is to optimize operations with other building services, not just designate when the bathrooms should be cleaned. With this approach, a better predictive service model is needed. But is that all there is to making a bathroom smart? When thinking about the restroom experience, we wanted to think beyond the operational; rather, we wanted the entire experience to be optimized.

If we look at the four pillars of the IoT, we can achieve more effectiveness overall with our implementation:

(1) Space utilization: Do we have the correct number of bathrooms? The right size? The right features? Can we handle peak usage? Do we have enough capacity for the population?
(2) Utilities management: Can we reduce waste and lower electrical and water consumption?
(3) Facilities operation: Can we be more efficient by moving from a scheduled service to an on-demand service model?
(4) Occupant experience: Can we make the bathrooms ‘cool’ or educational? Can we make them more accessible and inclusive?

This is just the beginning. We will continue to explore avenues to incorporate technology and intelligent design. Cloud technologies and machine learning can enable more solutions and additional data sources. We created strategies to mitigate costs for installation, maintenance and support, and considered the impacts to maintaining privacy and security. Remember, stay focused on the problem you are trying to solve, maintain relevant data sources and review your action plans based on that data. It will make your approach to Smart Bathrooms much easier.

To learn more about Smart Bathrooms, one of the topics to be presented at this year’s CoRE Tech Innovation Showcase, join us on Nov. 15 in Silicon Valley. This fast-paced segment will provide insight into extraordinary examples of innovation within the industry that have the potential to radically change Corporate Real Estate and Facilities.

Zorba Manolopoulos, Global IoT Program Manager, Microsoft
Focused on providing IoT solutions in the areas of Space Utilization, Facilities Operations, Utilities Management and Occupant Experience.

This Week’s Sponsor

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Realcomm News

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UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS

Controlling a Building from Your Phone – OCCUPANT EXPERIENCE Platforms Arrive - 2/28/2019

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Chuck Niswonger NiceNets Consulting
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Chuck Niswonger
President
NiceNets Consulting

Chuck Niswonger has over 30 years of successful leadership experience in technology-related roles that range from operating his own consulting company (www.nicenets.com) to directing the IT strategy of a real estate investment management firm to manufacturing and technology-enabled education. Chuck has also been the chair of the Realcomm Investment Management (IM) Advisory Council for the last ten years, managing content selection for the conference educational sessions, IM forums, workshops and webinars.

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Matthew Lennan Oxford Properties
Matthew Lennan Innovator in Residence Matthew Lennan has been integrating IT and building system technologies for more than 30 years. He has developed and implemented computing infrastruc
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Matthew Lennan
Innovator in Residence
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Matthew Lennan has been integrating IT and building system technologies for more than 30 years. He has developed and implemented computing infrastructures for global financial firms, major healthcare facilities, manufacturing, entertainment complexes and traditional smart buildings. Most recently, Matthew has been working in software development to refine the customer experience for smart buildings in Office, Retail and Residential environments. He is currently responsible for driving Innovation across Oxford Properties’ portfolio.

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Jared Summers ExxonMobil
Jared Summers Data, Analytics & Technology Manager Jared Summers is a motivated execution-oriented high performance individual who has extensive experience managing large-scale global programs. He brin
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Jared Summers
Data, Analytics & Technology Manager
ExxonMobil
LinkedIn

Jared Summers is a motivated execution-oriented high performance individual who has extensive experience managing large-scale global programs. He brings a unique ability to understand and articulate complex technologies in a relatable way while rapidly fielding innovative capabilities. Currently Jared is the Data, Analytics & Technology Manager at ExxonMobil, delivering on the promise of transformational change enabled by digital technologies across the entire global real estate portfolio.

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Elizabeth Dukes Co-Founder & CMO Elizabeth Dukes is the Co-Founder and CMO of iOFFICE, the leading workforce-centric IWMS software and the first 100% SaaS platform designed for the Di
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Elizabeth Dukes
Co-Founder & CMO
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Elizabeth Dukes is the Co-Founder and CMO of iOFFICE, the leading workforce-centric IWMS software and the first 100% SaaS platform designed for the Digital Workplace. Dukes drives strategy for iOFFICE and advocates for the confluence of people and technology that unleashes the full potential of the workforce and the workplace.

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Matt Willmore Modo Labs
Matt Willmore Director of Product Management Matt leads the product development and roadmap strategy for Modo Labs. With broad experience across mobile and audience engagement, along with a custo
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Matt Willmore
Director of Product Management
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Matt leads the product development and roadmap strategy for Modo Labs. With broad experience across mobile and audience engagement, along with a customer-centric mindset, he is the company’s product leader for both Workplace and Campus solutions. Matt and his development team continue to enhance the Modo no-code platform, empowering higher education and enterprise organizations to quickly create personalized applications and ensure students and employees have access to the information they need most.

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Joshua Grosser Vice President - Commercial Sales Joshua has over 15 years of successful leadership experience with early-stage disruptive companies. He has an extensive background in property technol
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Joshua Grosser
Vice President - Commercial Sales
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Joshua has over 15 years of successful leadership experience with early-stage disruptive companies. He has an extensive background in property technology, focusing on amenities that drive tenant experience across commercial real estate, multifamily residential and student housing. Josh has lead national sales and support teams with an emphasis on customer success, brand recognition, and occupant experience.

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Nicholas Lawrence cohesionIB
Nicholas Lawrence Head of Sales As Head of Sales, Nick is responsible for leading the sales organization including domestic sales, product implementation and customer success. Nick’s
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Nicholas Lawrence
Head of Sales
cohesionIB

As Head of Sales, Nick is responsible for leading the sales organization including domestic sales, product implementation and customer success. Nick’s 20+ years’ involvement with technology dates to the 90s when Peapod did its best to teach him UNIX. Nick’s IT responsibilities over his various positions have included End User Support, System/Platform Administration, Business Continuity Management and Project, Facilities, Procurement, Contracts & Maintenance. Most recently Nick served as Vice President at Environmental Systems Design (ESD).