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The Internet of Things Improves Sustainability in Laundry Operations

Scott Wicker

Buzz about the Internet of Things is everywhere, and many companies are trying to figure out how their devices can connect to the Internet in a smart way to bring new benefits to users. For instance, the Nest smart thermostat has become a poster child for the Internet of Things, spurring Google to acquire Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in early 2014.

Although the consumer-focused Connected Home market may be the most talked about segment of the IoT, industrial applications, infrastructure management, energy management, environmental monitoring, and medical and healthcare systems are all looking to the Internet of Things to make their systems smarter. Ultimately, these applications will likely have more of an impact on society than smart gadgets for our homes.

Technology analysts and visionaries define the Internet of Things as a network of physical objects accessed through the Internet. These objects contain embedded technology to interact with internal states or the external environment. So, when objects can sense and communicate, it changes how and where decisions are made, and who makes them. This connectivity means more data, gathered from more places, with more ways to increase efficiency and improve safety and security. According to information technology research firm Gartner, there will be nearly 26 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by 2020, and Cisco is even more bullish, estimating 50 billion.

As hotels aim to create sustainable, green properties, they are tasked with managing consumption of natural resources such as water and energy. Laundry operations provide a significant opportunity for reducing consumption, and by connecting commercial laundry systems to the Internet, the Internet of Things can help provide this data and act on it.

Hoteliers often struggle with understanding the extent and costs of the utilities laundry operations consume. It may sound cliché, but we can’t manage what we don’t measure.

Why Connect your Laundry Machines to the Internet?

One of the first examples of the Internet of Things intersecting with laundry was in college dorms at MIT. Through a collaborative effort between students and the university, MIT’s Random Hall dormitory connected its laundry room so residents can check to see when washers and dryers were available. This type of smart monitoring is now available in many dorms and apartment buildings, where residents can get a text when their laundry is ready—avoiding those abandoned loads of laundry while others are waiting.

But, what about the commercial side of laundry? And, what if the Internet could be harnessed to monitor systems and predict savings from more efficient use? Advances in technology enable smart metering devices to be used with laundry machines that will allow hotels to measure energy, water and detergent use and act on that information. Once in place, the Internet of Things can be used in commercial laundry facilities to validate sustainability claims and increase the bottom line. We’ll explain how…

How the Internet of Things Will be Used in Commercial Laundry Operations

With the Internet of Things, hotel laundries can now hone in on their costs with a level of accuracy never seen before.

Smart meter devices that connect to commercial laundry facilities monitor the amount of hot and cold water used, energy consumed, and chemicals used, and feed this data into the Internet. This allows hoteliers to get a clear understanding of real time operating costs in order to improve laundry efficiency. On an aggregate level, they have a holistic view of the health of laundry operations.

This all translates to savings. The monitoring systems are often used to justify purchasing more efficient laundry machines, or can be shared with local utility companies to qualify for energy-saving rebates.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review explains that, “Intelligence and connectivity enable an entirely new set of product functions and capabilities, which can be grouped into four areas: monitoring, control, optimization, and autonomy. Each capability is valuable in its own right and also sets the stage for the next level.”

These are some of the new functions and capabilities that are enabled with smart, connected industrial laundry machines:

•    Actual real time water, energy, cycle time and chemical consumption usage and costs are tracked versus benchmarks.
•    This information can be further broken down by machine, multiple machines, location and data can be aggregated for an overall view of laundry operations.
•    Machine utilization can be streamlined by identifying wait times and reducing downtime.
•    Management can access reports remotely from any Internet-connected device, such as an iPhone or iPad.
•    Monitoring easily expands as machines are added and upgraded.

The Harvard Business Review article also states that, “Smart, connected products will have a transformative effect on industry structure.” We see this transformation coming to your laundry room.

What to Look for in Smart Commercial Laundry

As hotels start thinking about how the Internet of Things will transform daily operations in the future, here is a checklist of capabilities to look for that will enable intelligent monitoring, control, optimization and autonomy. These smart devices will help hotels achieve the labor and utility efficiency needed to reduce expenses. In addition, companies that embrace new energy-saving technologies are often rewarded for their efforts to go green.

•    NSF-certified meters installed on laundry machines.
•    Meters approved by major utility companies for accuracy and reliability.
•    The ability to collect and upload real-time utility usage data.
•    A secure, cloud-based application for analysis.
•    Sharing of data with local utility companies.
•    Energy-savings based financial incentives.

As hotels and commercial laundries harness the Internet of Things, it will allow for better management of their operations using the Internet, which will yield opportunities for operational efficiency and improvement. By taking an innovative approach to an established way of doing things, the Internet of Things is delivering savings and a sustainable approach to commercial laundry operations.

Scott Wicker is Vice President of Global Brand Management at Xeros, Inc., the innovator of an ultra-low water laundry system. Using patented polymer bead technology, the Xeros System for commercial cleaning uses up to 80 percent less water, 50 percent less energy and approximately 50 percent less detergent, and delivers superior cleaning results compared to conventional washing. Scott oversees global brand management for Xeros and is responsible for helping advance Xeros’ brand worldwide. He is a senior marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience with global brands like ZINK Imaging, New Balance, and Polaroid. Scott was the CMO for ZINK Imaging where he was responsible for several award-winning new product launches. He is a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Electrical Engineering and holds his MBA from Georgetown University.