Paperless Restrooms Send User Generated Alerts

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Flush with the success of a pilot program at its Silicon Valley HQ, Intel is rolling out digital restrooms across 22 campuses globally. From overflowing toilets to empty towel dispensers to faulty faucet motion sensors, Intel employees can now swipe their washroom maintenance requests using smartphones.

Near field communications (NFC) chips  installed in the restrooms of Intel’s Robert Noyce Building at the beginning of 2014let employees anonymously report maintenance needs with a tap of their mobile phone. Those without NFC-enabled smartphones have the option to scan a QR code.

Based on positive feedback from the Silicon Valley pilot, Intel is re-plumbing restrooms in all of its global offices to include NFC and QR codes. In order to ensure a clean flowing process, signage is being translated into eight different languages and the mobile application is being updated to have the most commonly reported restroom issues being the most accessible within the app.

Each of the restroom signs is custom-coded for that particular restroom so that when the mobile application is triggered, it is for that restroom. 2,215 signs with NFC/QR codes will be hung worldwide.

Streamlining the service request process addressed a big challenge for facility maintenance staff, according to Joe Maestas, a former project manager for Intel Corporate Services involved in the initial pilot program.

“One of the things that everybody loves to complain about is bathrooms,” he said. “But people never report issues.”

That general lack of movement prompted Maestas and his team to plunge into finding a way to unclog the restroom maintenance request process and get things flowing down the right pipe.

30-second window…

According to Suzy Hart Langdell a communications specialist in the projects and solutions team of Intel’s Technology Manufacturing Group, there are over 20,000 restroom service requests per year worldwide.

“There is [generally] a 15- to 30-second time period from when a person sees something to when they will report it — if you make it really easy,” said Maestas. “Outside that 30-second window, the opportunity is lost.”

Previously, employees could submit service requests via an 11-step process on the company intranet or call them in, neither of which had much sense of urgency. The restroom signs with NFC chips and QR codes keep opportunities to report issues from going down the drain by making the process easy — now three clicks or fewer — and immediate.

Gender bias…

Initially, usage has been divided along gender lines with approximately eight in 10 requests coming from men’s restrooms. According to IT in the Toilet, a study conducted by marketing firm 11Mark, smartphone use in the bathroom doesn’t differ much for men (74 percent) and women (76 percent), but men are more likely to bring their smartphone: 30 percent claimed they never go to the bathroom without their phone, compared with 20 percent of women.

“I know I don’t bring my phone into the restroom,” said Michelle Creed, a project manager on the program. “Maybe the guys keep it in their pockets or have it on their belt. So, that could be the difference, the mobile phone actually going with the person.”

In order to attract restroom visitors to use the new system and ensuring that bathroom “surfaces” are clean, Intel corporate services teased a giveaway of a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that Intel employees could enter to win using the new smartphone restroom app.

The janitorial staff in charge of clean restrooms noticed an increase in bathroom “issues” as people tried to enter via reporting a problem in the restroom. Even though the link to enter the giveaway did not require an “issue” being entered.

Regardless of where the requests come from, there is some anecdotal evidence that the new smartphone process has shortened response time to maintenance requests. Maestas cites the example of an empty soap dispenser that was refilled before the person who submitted the request had even left the restroom.

“From a customer perspective, that is what you want — real-time results,” he said.

Photo by Intel Free Press.

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