Hygiene Solutions Gain Connection in Hong Kong via IoT

LBS Smart Technology's solutions track health risks based on air quality, rodents and other public health conditions, using Sigfox 0G connectivity from Thinxtra.
Published: September 30, 2022

Hong Kong companies are deploying Internet of Things (IoT) solutions aimed at public health that are tracking air quality, the presence of rodents and the proper servicing of dispensers in public bathrooms. The systems all leverage technology from Thinxtra, provided by Hong Kong-based hygiene services firm LBS Smart Technology, that manages conditions in both residential and commercial venues, as well as at schools, hospitals and government buildings. In each case, smart sensor devices transmit via Sigfox 0G networks to a cloud-based server, where LBS Smart Technology’s software provides condition data, issues alerts and makes health-based recommendations.

Nicholas Lambrou

Nicholas Lambrou

Thinxtra is an Australia-based IoT company that was launched in 2015 with data networks dedicated to capturing, transferring and analyzing data across a wide set of applications. The company’s goal, according to Nicholas Lambrou, Thinxtra’s CEO, is to provide organizations with data insights that boost operational efficiencies, create new revenue streams for companies, improve the customer experience or heighten sustainability. In the case of LBS solutions, the company explains, the goal is to provide greater public health assurance across numerous applications, at a time when the pandemic has brought health safety to the forefront for consumers, office workers and managers.

In addition to public health, Lambrou says, “Organizations are under a lot of pressure now, particularly because of the macroeconomic environment,” including the cost of inflation, the post COVID-19-era pressure on supply chain and logistics, and climate change. Some of Thinxtra’s applications are centered around asset management, while its partnership with LBS focuses on health and hygiene in the Hong Kong and Macau markets. LBS is among the largest hygiene services companies in Hong Kong, says Joe Sun, Thinxtra’s general manager for Hong Kong and Macau, with more than 50 percent market share. By adding Thinxtra’s connectivity to its solutions, the firm says it has transformed its offerings from traditional hygiene-based services to a smart technology.

Improving Air Quality and Safety

One solution, the company reports, is built around preventing infections by tracking air quality. Throughout the pandemic, Sun says, organizations throughout Hong Kong have focused on how to make indoor spaces safer by preventing airborne disease infection. Those areas in which air quality is a concern, he explains, include office buildings, schools and shopping malls.

Joe Sun

Joe Sun

Traditionally, systems to track carbon dioxide levels have relied on handheld scanners. Company employees could use such scanners to measure CO2 levels, Lambrou says, by physically entering a room and testing the quality of the air. That method may miss some conditions, such as humidity, and data is only captured periodically, when a staff member has the time to conduct the measurement. That matters, he adds, because conditions in a room can change throughout a day, or even within a matter of moments. “And if you think about going from room to room to room with a handheld scanner,” he states, “it probably becomes quite cost-prohibitive.”

Thinxtra uses air-quality sensors from third-party manufacturers and provides them with its own low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) 0G radio technology, based on the Sigfox protocol. Humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide data are the most common measurements users request, the company reports. According to Lambrou, the combination of CO2 levels together with humidity and temperature can affect the transfer rate of airborne diseases such as COVID-19. “So this is all about preventative measures,” he states, “and providing the safest environment as possible.”

First, the battery-powered sensor is attached on a user’s wall. Thinxtra and LBS work with customers to determine how many sensors are needed for a specific space, then link each sensor to its location in the software. The device captures air-quality readings and transmits that information in real time, along with its own unique ID number, via 0G to area gateways, and onto a cloud-based server where LBS’s software manages the collected data. The device’s battery typically has a lifespan of three to five years, the company claims.

Users can preprogram specified requirements, such as receiving an alert when measurements reach a particular level. At that time, a message could be sent to an office manager or facility superintendent, indicating actions are required to make the air safer. Actions that are sent to a manager could be something as simple as opening a window, Lambrou notes, or turning on a purifier. The data could also help a company determine if more purifiers are needed, as well as where to deploy them.

Tracking and Controlling Rodents

Another public health challenge in Hong Kong centers around rodent control. Some companies have deployed the LBS-Thinxtra solution to identify activity related to rats or mice. The sensors come equipped with motion detection and can be mounted on walls facing floors or other surfaces where rodents might be found. If a rodent enters the space in which the sensor has been installed, the device will identify the movement as being typical of rodent behavior. The system will issue an alert to the 0G gateways, to be forwarded to managers, who can then deploy deterrents, such as a mousetrap or rat repellant.

Rodent sensors are already in place in the public market, as well as at hospitals and shopping malls. The technology is also being used for sanitation supplies management. For instance, 0G sensor devices are installed in public bathrooms to track the fill levels of soap dispensers, as well as to measure toilet paper levels and trash bin capacity. A device can be attached to each dispenser so that it can measure fluid levels and send alerts once the soap reaches a minimum level. Companies using the solution hope to reduce the labor costs related to employing a cleaner to continually check each dispenser. Instead, they can simply receive alerts when soap levels are too low, which can minimize labor costs.

The cost of the IoT system deployment is relatively low, Lambrou notes, because the connectivity infrastructure is already in place. Hong Kong and Macau have nearly 90 percent 0G network coverage, he explains, so in most cases, additional gateways to receive transmissions are unnecessary. If users want to extend their coverage, the solution provider can add more gateways, however. For the most part, he states, “We’re not asking organizations to go out and build that infrastructure. We’ve effectively done that already, so it’s really more a matter of adding sensors based on the nature of the application,”

Visibility into Assets in a Supply Chain

Other Thinxtra technology deployments are centered around logistics solutions. CouriersPlease, an Australian transportation and logistics organization, is moving approximately 30 million parcels annually and is tracking the transportation cages in which those items are shipped. “One of the challenges that they have faced,” Lambrou says, “is that these transportation cages quite often get lost or are simply not returned.” The company deployed the IoT system from Thinxtra around 12 months ago, with the goal of reducing losses and increasing cage availability.

With full visibility into the transportation cages, CouriersPlease intends to boost its on-time deliveries and better satisfy customers’ delivery requirements. Initially, Lambrou says, the company deployed a cellular-based IoT tracking solution. The challenge with cellular connectivity, however, was the spotty coverage available in more remote regions of Australia, or undercover in warehouses. Network coverage wasn’t the primary problem, though. “The biggest challenge that they faced was the issue of battery power,” he recalls, in the devices transmitting location data as the cages moved throughout the country.

According to Lambrou, the devices required enough power to transfer a relatively large amount of data quickly, which depleted the battery power within a short span of time. Since deploying the system with 0G connectivity, the company reports that it has not only minimized the loss of its transport cages but also retrieved cages that had been missing. “That’s been a very positive impact,” he says, “not only to their bottom line and operational efficiencies but also from a customer satisfaction perspective.”

Additionally, Thinxtra partner Konvoy provides an IoT-based asset-tracking service for the rental of beer kegs. The technology consists of 0G tags that transmit a location and ID to the network as the kegs travel between the rental company and its customers. The technology can identify where any given keg is located, as well as whether it is empty or full, based on its location. The data enables the company to collect every keg, then bring it back, wash it, refill it and send it out again, ultimately with the intention of increasing revenue. Konvoy has been using the system for approximately two years.


Key Takeaways:

  • Internet of Things technology is at the heart of LBS Smart Technology’s public health and hygiene solutions, which transmit data from a public site regarding air quality, rodent activity or other potential health issues.
  • Thinxtra is offering not only public-health-based solutions, but also LPWAN 0G IoT connectivity for use by solution providers helping companies manage assets and inventory.