Truck drivers are the busy signals running up and down highways that serve as nerves of the Indian economy, yet their acceptance of the poor hygiene facilities provided to them is always taken for granted. With third-party warehousing increasingly becoming the trend, no-one — not the manufacturer, nor the warehouse owner or operator — may be interested in investing in proper washroom facilities for these essential workers.
Consequently, stop-gap solutions like portable toilets and e-toilets are installed for their use, without assigning any resources to maintain them. While truck drivers may not protest, the powers-that-be should remember that no one wants to use a smelly toilet that is below their dignity. They would rather compromise on their hygiene in one way or another, which eventually impacts their health, which in turn interrupts critical goods movement.
But what if this stench was monitored? Gandhvedh is an IoT-based device which measures odour, total volatile organic compounds, temperature and humidity in toilets. As soon as any parameter crosses pre-set levels, it alerts the toilet operator through a mobile app to take appropriate action, nipping the problem in the bud. Also allied to warehousing, Vayuvedh is a similar device that monitors various harmful gases and particulate matter in indoor air.
Chandrashekhar Sakpal, Co-Founder and CEO, Viliso Technologies spoke with Mrigank Warrier, Assistant Editor, Clean India Journal about the engineering behind Gandhvedh and Vayuvedh, their applications and benefits.
Despite governments and urban local bodies spending crores on the construction and maintenance of public toilets, why does India still have an open defecation problem? This is the question that Sakpal and his team set out to answer.
They found that in India, cleanliness is judged by visual assessment only; a spic-and-span toilet emitting a foul odour is still considered clean.
What does toilet odour consist of?
Toilet gases are a mixture of compounds such as hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, methane, sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide etc. Bad odour is caused mainly due to reaction between ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane.
Why measure temperature and humidity?
Both factors play an important role in the growth of microorganisms; variations produce conditions that can have disruptive effects on human health. For example, high temperatures promote growth of bacteria but inhibit growth of viruses. If such conditions persist, microbial growth is almost certain; preventive maintenance by the toilet caretaker is imperative.
Performance of the gas sensors is also impacted by temperature and humidity, which need to be compensated for to derive correct concentration value of the gases.
Measurement and sensors
The initial research and development of the product was done at IIT Kharagpur, where Sakpal was a mentor. The team developed its own sensors and calibration methods.
The sensors have a life of five years and can detect inorganic and organic toxins that cause malodour, apart from odourless compounds as well. But what does a lay person make of these numbers?
Sakpal said: “From a scientific point of view, we may have measured the concentration of a molecule as 3.5 ppm, but the common man won’t understand this. Odour is measured by intensity, which we have divided into five levels that everyone can comprehend: barely sensible, weak, easily recognisable, strong and pungent.”
These are also colour-coded, ranging from green to red to indicate the urgency with which cleaning/maintenance by the caretaker is required. “Our Smart platform makes the invisible, visible to users”, said Sakpal.
These objective readings were correlated with subjective perceptions of odour by lay persons, and were found to corroborate accurately.
Gandhvedh: The Device
Gandhvedh is an IoT-based electronic device through which toilet cleaners receive alerts when odour levels are breached, prompting them to take needed action to keep toilets clean and free of malodour.
The mobile and web app provides various features and options to users:
- Monitor levels of various harmful gases
- Alerts when set levels are breached and certain safety tips
- Customized alert settings
- Track nearby toilets along with their odour level and user feedback indicators
- Provide feedback on toilet cleanliness
- Historical data charts based on hourly, weekly and monthly time period
- Customised reports
- Device online/offline status
The device runs on 230 V electric power and is tamper-proof.
Gandhvedh in practice
The chief engineer of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has mandated that Gandhvedh should be used at all pay-and-use toilets in Mumbai. Already, one device is being installed for every three toilet seats; away from doors and windows, high up a wall or on the ceiling. With 896 toilet blocks and 1,40,000 toilet seats set to benefit from this technology, most public/community toilets of the metropolis are set to be monitored and connected to the dashboard.
How does it benefit toilet operators?
Gandhvedh tracks toilet odour 24X7, and generates unbiased, objective data. Since this data is accessible at the fingertips of the toilet operator, any complaint about malodour can be cross-checked against odour levels logged on that day and at that time. Genuine complaints can be verified, while frivolous complaints can be weeded out.
Previously, community toilets had to be compulsorily cleaned 10-12 times a day, based on a rigid schedule. With odour data and alerts generated by Gandhvedh, toilets now need to be cleaned only as and when indicated.
“This cleaning schedule reduces the amount of time, chemicals and energy required to maintain a toilet block, as well cuts down on the amount of time a toilet operator has to spend inside the facility”, said Sakpal. Having to spend long hours inside the toilet block would impact the health of operators, among whom absenteeism was naturally rampant.
The full version of Vayuvedh measures virus risk Index, mould risk index, temperature, humidity, particulate matter, carbon dioxide, total volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, LPG and smoke.
Virus risk index
It is useful to detect all air borne viruses like Covid-19, and is a methodology that helps reduce the aerial spread of viruses. Index levels indicate the likelihood of the virus to be able to survive in the current quality of indoor air.
Mould risk Index
It is calculated based on a matrix using Temperature and Relative Humidity. It helps facility managers understand how indoor air quality can be maintained to reduce risk of mould.
Vayuvedh and fire safety
Vayuvedh has an in-built smoke detector. Being an IoT device, it monitors smoke every second and sends alerts and safety inputs to users when alert settings are breached.
Applications in the private sector
“Everyone does scheduled or on-demand cleaning in private facility washrooms. Gandhvedh can track occupancy of a washroom in real-time to ensure distancing, and can act as an audit tool of service providers contracted to maintain toilets”, said Sakpal.
Analytical insights from Gandhvedh and Vayuvedh can help facility managers plan resources in advance, save man hours and increase operational efficiency.
Facility managers, are you listening?