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Cleaning concepts of the future

Data and Robots

Philipp Kipf, Product Manager Digital Solutions, explains how Smart City of the future can always be clean.

What challenges do you see on the road to Smart City?

Data is our biggest challenge. We have to interpret it in a meaningful way, develop norms and standards, be mindful of data protection and above all consider how we make the data available, and to whom. Cities like Berlin and Hamburg already have open data source portals, which the public can use to develop service apps for the city, for example. One subdomain of this is the networking of machines produced by different manufacturers in order to manage fleets efficiently and comprehensively. Trucks, for example, provide data points via CAN bus so that I can record vehicles from different manufacturers on one system.

In terms of cleaning, how can data help?

One key catchword is cleaning on demand. Cleaning intensity is often reduced now to save on costs, rather than making the system smarter. What would that involve? I could use weather data for street cleaning to see where, for example, streets had become muddy because of rain. Frequency meters on street lights or image evaluation on pre-installed cameras could show me whether there is a lot of activity in a public area. If there are 300 people having currywurst at a snack stand at 12pm, but there are only two waste bins there, then it is likely that cleaning will be required afterwards. So I will take my cleaning vehicle there, but it won’t go to quieter areas. The same also works for offices. Absences could be recorded via Outlook or a sensor in the laptop docking station. During these times, no cleaning would be required, which would leave more time for busy offices.

What innovations are, in your view, conceivable?

In addition to smart data, robotics is sure to gain in importance. At Kärcher, we were already using robots in the early 1990s, but at that time people had not made as much progress and the machines were too big. Current developments show that we are definitely on the way to using robotics in everyday life. We will also have completely new business models, even at Kärcher. It is conceivable that building service contractors will stop buying cleaning machines and instead book the cleaning services of a machine for 5,000sqm of tiled surface. Pay-per-use concepts like this are the future, no question, and the challenge now for all companies on the market is to embrace these opportunities and develop attractive solutions.

Thinking about a vision for the future, how do you think the Smart City will look in terms of cleaning?

The cleaning of the future is connected and invisible. Bins will be connected to recycling stations via pressurised pipelines and will remove the rubbish automatically. The pavement will vacuum up leaves. The Smart City of the future is always clean, because everything is perfectly designed and networked.

In a smart city in 2025, I will be wakened up by a smart alarm clock. It knows my appointments schedule and takes into account my deep sleep phases and morning routine. The routine is all set. While I am out of the house, my vacuum robot takes care of the housework and then recharges itself when energy is cheapest.

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The city is in itself a very complex construct. In this respect, and with a view toward the “smart” future, we are dealing primarily with interdisciplinary issues. In Germany, we still have some work to do on that front, because in the relevant fields we are set up more according to discipline.

Dr Karl Engelbert Wenzel


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