The future is clean with Data, Drones and Swarm Robotics
Efficient infrastructure and an attractive living environment despite rising populations… Sparing use of resources despite higher demand… These key aspects highlight the challenges that communities are facing today. Moreover, in countries like Germany, large metropolitan areas are in increasingly intense competition for qualified workforces. The wider context of urban planning is therefore extremely complex, with smart cleaning only a small piece of the puzzle. Yet, behind the cleaning activities – in themselves unspectacular – lies a major contribution to the quality of life and health of the population. From smart data to drone support and swarm robotics, from sharing systems to pay-per-use and smart metabolism management: together with Dr Alexander Rieck from the Fraunhofer IAO (Fraunhofer Institute for Labour Economics and Organisation) and Dieter Lindauer from the Bundesverband Smart City e.V. (German Federal Association for Smart Cities), Kärcher experts examine how far technology has come, how large-scale cleaning in the cities of the future could look – and why smart recycling can unearth genuine treasures, even in street waste.
Data as the key to intelligent control:
The intelligent acquisition and linking of information provides countless opportunities to improve processes and make the economy more sustainable. One example from agriculture shows that data acquired in a targeted way is already contributing to optimum utilisation of water and fertiliser: agricultural drones are capable of recording the condition of fields using infrared imaging, and assigning the supply requirements to semi-autonomous tractors. These then prepare the required mixture of water and additives, which the farmer uses to treat his field as required. Servicing and machine management can be optimised in the same way for service providers with large machine fleets. Dr Karl Engelbert Wenzel, responsible for the pre-development of intelligent systems at Kärcher, explains: “With Kärcher Fleet and Kärcher Manage, we offer modern fleet and capacity management solutions that allow our customers to see, in real time and at all times, which machines and employees are active where, how utilisation can be improved and when servicing is required.”
These possibilities demonstrate that the leap towards demand-actuated cleaning on a large scale is no longer such a distant one. Dieter Lindauer, Chairman of Bundesverband Smart City e.V. and Manager of Stadtwerke Rodgau (Rodgau municipal utilities), explains why infrastructure like street lighting will play a significant role in this: “A major IT specialist offered to modernise the street lighting in the city of New York free of charge. This meant the possibility of equipping the masts with functions like fine dust measuring, frequency measuring or Park & Charge and making these available to other service providers.”
Other service providers could be municipal cleaners, who would be able to identify in real time which public spaces were experiencing a lot of footfall and therefore which required more cleaning, and where basic cleaning was sufficient.
Philipp Kipf, Product Manager Digital Solutions at Kärcher, adds: “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 to that precise spot.” Combined with increasing automation, networking could enable even more expansive scenarios in the future (see Showcase: A day in the Smart City (Page No. 50).
Who cleans where and how? Drones, robots, automatic goats – what is and will be possible?
Increased automation of cleaning tasks in the public sector depends heavily on whether technical developments in the field of robotics can enable interaction with people, particularly since automation is not an end in itself, but a means of helping building service contractors to accomplish their cleaning tasks in the best possible way. Marco Cardinale, Head of Product Management Floor Care at Kärcher, describes the demands: “On the one hand, our customers are seeing increasing cost pressures, with labour costs accounting for around 80% of their expenses, and on the other hand labour is becoming increasingly difficult to find, and can be deployed more productively elsewhere. And owing to high staff turnover, among other things, there is also the expense of recruitment and induction. Our task is to provide the best possible support so that they can reduce their overall cleaning costs.”