The robotics market in India is growing rapidly. Many Indian startups and IT companies are successfully venturing into AI-driven enterprises, a latest report by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) places India amongst the Top 10 countries of annual installation of robots in industry dominated areas.
The multi-pronged uses of robots allow them to be used in different domains. From hospitality to hospitals, a range of sectors are adopting automation to reduce costs, time or to achieve precision and in some cases save lives. A recent IEEE survey titled Generation AI 2020: Health, Wellness, and Technology in a Post-COVID World revealed that 58% of those surveyed in India have complete trust in robots for cleaning and sanitization purposes in a public space.
Guests at hotels expect a hospitable and hygienic ambiance during their travel. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, guests demand standard cleanliness to ensure their safety against contracting the virus. Therefore, hotel staff need to take extensive measures ensuring where we stay is sanitary, so we are now turning to self-cleaning robots to help.
“Hotels, while being a necessity for many who travel, can be hazardous given the high rotativity and the diverse origin of guests,” says IEEE Graduate Student Member Hector Azpúrua. “In this sense, guests are not only at risk, but also many hotel personnel who perform the cleansing and room preparation.” Azpúrua further states that with the onset of the pandemic, many robotics researchers and startups have focused on removing the “human factor” of cleaning tasks leading to effective and cost-saving options.
Self-cleaning robots are not new and have been utilized in homes, hospitals, hotels and other spaces that require repetitive and diligent cleaning requirements well before the pandemic hit this year. But the pandemic has accelerated and expanded robots to get the job done and keep everyone safe.
“Cleanliness, hygiene, comfort and appearance are the prime concerns of housekeeping, whether it is done by humans or robots,” says IEEE member Jayakrishnan Thrivikraman Nair. “However, robotization makes it more manageable through accurate scheduling, improved efficiency, accessory footprint, dynamic cleaning patterns, 24×7 assured cleanliness and much more.”
3 Self-Cleaning Robot Technologies
Vacuum cleaning robots
Vacuum cleaning robots are a popular consumer tool to help clean and maintain cleanliness in homes, but they are being utilized in public spaces as well.
“Robots already have a well-known tracking history when it comes to vacuum cleaning tasks,” says IEEE Member Antonio Espingardeiro. “At the moment they are assistants to human cleaners. So, we could expect robots from small to medium sizes to continue performing such tasks.”
Vacuum cleaning robots use state-of-the-art technology to scan the room and build a visual representation or map of the space. The robot performs the task autonomously and can locate the charging dock to recharge after the cleaning has been successfully performed.
While these vacuums are not designed to clean germs, they do routine cleaning tasks a person would otherwise have to perform. Instead, the person can monitor the robot and minimize the time they need to be a potentially risky enclosed space.
Disinfectant spraying robots are often used in outdoor areas to spray chemicals that combat viruses and bacteria. IEEE member Walter Lages explains that “robots are not vulnerable to the diseases caused by the virus and can be disinfected by using strong chemicals or even radiation which would be inadequate for humans.”
Spraying robots work like vacuum robots and are capable of autonomously navigating a room or space without human assistance.
“The robot navigates the environment by using technologies such as SLAM (simultaneous location and mapping), which itself is based on the fusion of data from multiple sensors such as encoders, laser scanners, depth cameras and ultrasound sonars.” says Lages. “The robot itself develops a map of the environment based on its sensors and then navigates it.”
You probably won’t find a disinfectant spraying robot in your hotel room, but don’t be surprised if you see them working in parking lots or in areas outside and around buildings intended for high visitor traffic.
UV robots emit ultraviolet light in the C wavelength range to kill any viruses or bacteria living on their surface. These autonomous robots can sense a dirty environment and use their powerful rays to kill germs.
“UV lights are often used in professional cleaning setups to identify dirty surfaces, connecting both systems of inspection with image processing and then with a UV beam light to do the job,” says Espingardeiro.
UV light is also considered dangerous for humans, and technologists have developed ways to sense human activity and turn off the feature.
Azpúrua says, “Robots must be equipped with sensors, cameras and microphones, to prevent UV light activation if there are people present in proximity, by feeding this data into advanced AI-algorithms.”
UV-C technology, at present, is mostly used in hospitals and surgical rooms where sterilization is necessary. “The collaborative robot autonomously drives around hospitals while emitting concentrated UV-C light to eliminate bacteria and other harmful microorganisms with a 99.99 percent disinfection rate,” reports the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society.
The future of self-cleaning robots
While robotic and sensor technologies continue to develop, commercial industries like hospitality may begin utilizing these types of robots to keep their guests and employees safe in the future.
“Moreover, the latest trend in autonomous cleaning is not just based on independent cleaning robots,” says Nair. “Rather, these robots can be a part of the connected and intelligent cleaning system with well-defined behavior, with an ability to adapt to the changing environment and dynamics of the area under cleaning.”
Over time, cleaning crews will be able to work alongside and monitor robots to do the dirty and repetitive tasks that will keep us safe from harmful germs.