Why Digital Nose is useful for good upkeep of washroom?
Many a time, while visiting public visits in washrooms we end up having very negative experiences.
As multiple research projects suggest, bad smell and odour features as the top 5 aspects that negatively impact user experience in public washrooms (*Kimberly Clarke, * HR Network News Survey Scotland).
Even if the washrooms are cleaned periodically, the cleaning teams find it difficult to eliminate the underlying issues that cause foul odour as most of the corrective and preventive actions fall under the realm of building infrastructure maintenance and upgradation.
Reasons for foul odour in public washrooms can be attributed to three basic reasons, even if the housekeeping and cleaning services are managed consistently: –
1. High washroom and varied User footfall pattern during specific times.
2. Washroom air often contains a mixture of gases from various sources, including human excretion (e.g., urine and faeces), cleaning products, personal care products, and microbial activities. This diversity of the source of gases makes it difficult to isolate and identify specific gases as the concentration of these gases is difficult to track in an isolated manner.
3. Under-performance of the ventilation system in the washroom is another important reason. There are wide departures and deviations in the actual performance of the ventilation system wrt to its design. The ageing of inline exhaust fans as well as the deteriorating condition of the uncleaned ducts over a period contributes to ventilation performance degradation.
Most of the time, suspected gas generation in washroom start with reliance on human perception of Odours. This is a very relative issue that is dependent on perceived Odour intensity and varies with the concentration of the gas. At low levels of gas concentration, especially when it starts breeding, the human nose may not be able to detect and identify and we must fall back on technology.
Further, in situations where multiple gases are generated in the washroom, no specific gases can be singled out and the human nose will detect the odour of the compounded gas. Common gases of concern in washrooms include ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulphide (H2S), methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2), and various volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
While detecting and managing complex gas mixtures in washrooms can be challenging, a multisensory approach needs to be adopted to detect gas generation and consequently bad odour especially with highly sensitive and low detection range for specific gases or VOCs.
Adoption of Digital Nose technology does help the cleaning, housekeeping and O&M teams in initiating proactive measures and remedying the washroom environment in a real-time manner.
While Digital Nose (read gas sensors) can be valuable tools for monitoring and therefore facilitating ancillary systems /processes to control odour, they should be used in conjunction with human perception assessments to ensure that the overall Odour management strategy is effective and aligns with human expectations.
However, detecting and sensing the washroom gas levels is not enough to improve the air quality of the washroom. Smart wireless washroom management solutions backed up with Cloud hosted software application do provide comprehensive solutions that detects the Gas odour breach of the threshold settings and with integrated control system, and auxiliary systems so that the stale air in the washroom can be controlled/eliminated.
Often many organizations mask the bad Odour in the washroom by spraying fragrance from air fresheners. Apparently, this gives a bit of instant relief but in reality, it degrades the quality of air and can have a health impact on long-term exposure as the use of air fresheners or sanitisers is associated with elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
On the contrary, exposure to foul odour (which is a combination of VOCs, NH3, H2S and CO2 and traces of other organic and inorganic gases), if left unabated can also be a direct cause of pulmonary and tracheal infection on medium to long term exposure, as per leading medical research /journals.
Therefore, the process of recirculation and de-odourising the air in the washroom can only improve the washroom indoor environment condition of air without significant CAPEX and retrofitting investment in commercial buildings.
Therefore, many organizations global or local, who have set their ESG goals wherein ‘employee health and wellness’ is a key mandate are prioritizing repurposing their workplaces by improving the air quality in workplaces and washrooms as well.
Digital nose which forms the foundation for a safe, odour-free and healthy washroom is going to see quantum innovation and application in the times ahead.
Mr. Arabinda Chakraborty
Co-Founder And Chief Technology & Product Officer at Caleedo