From drones to self-disinfecting lift buttons, countries across the world have pivoted rapidly to tackle heightened sanitation standards from the pandemic.

Traditional cleaning methods no longer cut it, as they only provide “basic protection against infectious diseases”, says Lewis Ho, CEO of disinfection technology company Avalon Steritech.

As countries gradually reopen and resume social activities, proper sanitation is crucial. Ho shares how robots can step in to fill the gap.

New standards of cleanliness

Covid-19 has “significantly changed the public’s perception of cleanliness,” says Ho. Manual cleaning methods no longer provide the protection needed to combat infectious diseases.

While cleanliness used to be determined by visible dirt, sanitation standards after the pandemic have extended to include non-visible indicators as well, he adds.

Public spaces with high traffic, such as shopping malls or parks, increase the risk of microscopic viruses spreading via surfaces. Regular, consistent cleaning will be essential.

It is “critical to restore public confidence and to adapt to the post-Covid environment,” Ho says. Organisations need to adopt new disinfection protocols and tech to meet new public demands of cleanliness.

Enter the world of robots

Robots are one of the most effective means of enhancing sanitation, Ho says. AI and automation can carry out tasks reliably and consistently – avoiding the “spot-cleaning phenomenon” often associated with manual cleaning.

Robots are also accessible 24/7, and are able to work during off-hours or overnight. That easily frees up manpower to focus on higher value sanitation tasks – improving the overall cleanliness of public spaces, he adds.

SoftBank Robotics’ AI cleaning robot, Whiz, is trained to automatically avoid obstacles. Real-time data and alerts can also be shared with stakeholders, giving operators a peace of mind, Ho says.

Whiz has been deployed in a four-star hotel in Singapore, he shares, covering more than 400 rooms. That saved the hotel about eight hours per day, freeing up manpower for other dedicated tasks.

Image by Avalon Steritech

Avalon SteriTech has collaborated with SoftBank Robotics to add a chemical spraying device to Whiz. Known as Gambit, it disperses a fine spray of bio-decontaminants to settle both cleaning and disinfection in one go.

“We’ve been working with SGS to test and verify our Gambit system. Preliminary results are extremely encouraging, indicating the combined robotic approach can reduce microbial levels by 99 per cent,” Ho says. The cleaning robot launched today, 25 March.

Training a robot-ready workforce

With robots playing a bigger role in cleaning, what will that mean for skills?

Governments will need to equip workers with new skills in operating robots and analysing data, Dr Michelle Zhang, SoftBank Robotics Asia Pacific Market Expert, told GovInsider. Grants for businesses to adopt such technologies will also be crucial.

Whiz is a product of SoftBank Robotics. Gambit is a product of Avalon Robotics, a joint venture with SoftBank Robotics Group.

Whiz Gambit is “highly user-friendly and can be used by all frontline staff,” Ho says. His team will partner SoftBank Robotics to provide the necessary training for operators to ensure Whiz is maintained and deployed smoothly.

Tech is bound to play an important role in sanitising public spaces. Robots may just be the key to help governments ensure public spaces stay clean and safe for citizens.