Benefits of Wireless Power for Sanitation Devices in the Age of COVID-19

Sanitation devices in restrooms have never been more important. But during these times of limited workforces, it is suddenly all too common for such devices to fall out of service. Something as simple as faulty batteries can cause a breakdown in restroom sanitation—and that can have life-or-death consequences in today’s environment.

That’s why device manufacturers and facility managers alike are turning to a new technology that’s able to offer continuous power without the need for batteries or plugs: long-range wireless charging. This energy solution transmits power through the air, allowing facilities as diverse as gas stations and airports to implement Internet of Things (IoT) technology and ensure their restrooms stay operational, sanitary and safe.

The Popularity of Touchless Devices
From faucets to soap dispensers to automated flushers, touchless technology has revolutionized the restroom experience. Modern restrooms often employ a wide variety of these touchless mechanisms and are much cleaner as a result. Consumers have come to appreciate touchless devices as their advantages have grown more apparent. Most prefer to avoid touching restroom surfaces if they can help it, and no one wants to turn on a faucet or touch a flush handle if an alternative is available, especially in our current climate.

Property managers have historically viewed touchless devices as a way to improve prestige, reputation and efficiency, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only added greater urgency for facilities to upgrade. There have, however, been costs associated with wireless devices, with some of the major ones being:

  • Maintenance crews: Devices need to be monitored to ensure proper functioning, and staff are necessary to keep devices working properly. 
  • Batteries: When devices run on batteries, that power supply will eventually run out and must be replaced. This increases expenses both in terms of the power supply itself and the cost of paying someone to replace the batteries. 
  • Wiring: Facility managers that want to bypass battery power altogether must pay for expensive infrastructure changes to allow wiring of all devices to a constant power source. Additionally, wired power can limit the placement of sanitation devices.

Challenges Introduced by COVID-19
Good hygiene has always been important, but COVID-19 has made handwashing essential. As a result, many facility managers have been rushing to upgrade their current sanitation infrastructure. Even those that have already invested in touchless technologies are looking for ways to compensate for current conditions.

Touchless technology introduces a catch-22, however. On the one hand, touchless devices improve sanitation and safety. On the other, skeleton-crew maintenance teams aren’t always able to replace waning batteries. When the batteries run out on a touchless device, customers can be left without a way to properly disinfect, creating the potential for infection. Consumers who don’t feel safe using a facility are unlikely to return, especially with the heightened awareness created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wireless Power Keeps Devices Running
That’s why many facility managers are turning to a new technology: long-range wireless charging. Using infrared technology to deliver a constant charging signal over line-of-sight, long-range wireless charging devices are easy to install and maintain.

This offers several advantages, with the most significant being an unlimited lifespan. Wireless faucets, paper towel machines or flush toilets will never drain their batteries and will, therefore, significantly increase their operational lifespan. Maintenance teams also no longer need to constantly check on the power supply of devices, which is beneficial both to facility managers and to customers. The ease of setup is also convenient for facility managers who are eager to upgrade and convert their restrooms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wireless power in restrooms can:

  • Eliminate the need to replace batteries, keeping more people safe in the process.
  • Help keep door handles and touch surfaces sanitized, by powering automated sanitizing spritzers.
  • Minimize risk to workers who may otherwise have to be onsite in order to replace batteries on touchless devices.

Benefits of Upgrading to Wireless Power
Facility managers who upgrade their touchless suite to a wireless charging system can expect several advantages to accompany that switch. Likewise, those managers who move from non-touchless to touchless-with-wireless-charging can expect an even greater overall improvement. An upgraded restroom with a complete touchless experience and wireless charging means:

  • IoT capabilities: Most high-end, interconnected devices can send warnings to property managers when supplies get low or devices require maintenance. But IoT connectivity requires constant, reliable power. With long-range wireless charging, facility managers and maintenance staff will be able to monitor supply levels and operations from a safe distance.
  • Reduction in staffing levels: Being able to monitor supply levels remotely and having a reliable power source means staffing levels can operate at lower levels for longer periods of time. Maintenance staff will only need to check restrooms and devices when they are alerted to an issue, rather than every day. 
  • More power for additional capabilities: Many managers have been considering educational campaigns and PSAs that could be deployed in restrooms. One such example is video screens that display interactive handwashing tutorials. These innovations become much more feasible when the restrooms have a flexible and ongoing power supply. 
  • Reduction in high-touch surfaces: When touchless devices become more reliable, facility managers can reduce the number of high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, in any restroom setting. Reducing the number of these surfaces makes any restroom more hygienic.

Rapid Change, Quick Adoption
This makes wireless charging reliable in a way that hasn’t been achieved by alternative means, such as solar panels or short-range charging options. This is critical, considering that most customers view being able to conveniently wash their hands of newfound importance. For some, it might even feel like a life-or-death issue. Combine that with relatively easy installation, and wireless charging becomes an even more appealing option.

COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming speed, and the world has been forced to adapt rapidly. Widespread implementation of touchless technologies powered by wireless charging is easily the best way to keep restrooms as hygienic and healthy as possible.

Yuval Boger is the CMO of Wi-Charge, a provider of long-range wireless power. Yuval is an expert on wireless power technology and has experience working with large hotel chains on implementing this technology. He holds an MBA degree from the Kellogg school at Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in physics from Tel-Aviv University.