COVID-19 has been a wakeup call to change our way of life completely. The outbreak of this pandemic has taken the world by storm and led to unprecedented changes, including the sanitation habits of people across the globe, triggering the need for restrooms equipped to curb the spread.

With the spread of COVID-19, there has been a growing realization that personal hygiene may be the only way to keep the virus at bay. It is here that the role of essential utilities such as public washrooms, bathrooms, and elevators become critical since these confined public spaces could be super-spreaders of the virus when the nation gets back to work. 

Need for touchless technology

As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the world will not and cannot go back to the way things were. Henceforth, there is a need for some serious changes across the globe towards touchless technology as the virus often spreads through surface contact. Public washrooms in commercial establishments, such as malls, offices, airports, railway stations, etc. remain at grave risk of cross-contamination. This can be further aggravated if unwashed hands come into contact with fittings such as faucets, flushometers, sinks, or soap dispensers. 

The sensor-based touchless fixtures can help reduce the risk of infection in a restroom. This innovative and technological advancement enhances restroom hygiene, cleanliness, and sanitation, thereby eliminating the need to touch soap dispensers, faucets, and flush valves during use. Furthermore, these systems minimize maintenance work while curbing wastage of water, soap, and electricity, thus making the products sustainable as well.

Safe handwashing practices are quite effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and public restrooms with automated faucets and soap dispensers are the need of the hour. While using disposable towels to turn off faucets after washing hands is being pushed, this practice necessitates a large supply of paper towels, which often run out in public restrooms. This is where the switch to touch-free technology can be even more economical. As faucets turn off automatically without touching, paper towel wastage is greatly reduced and so is maintenance that is often needed to clean this wastage and stock up on a ready supply of fresh paper towels. 

One of the sectors which were worst hit by the outbreak of COVID-19 was tourism. While governments across the globe are lifting the lockdown to allow economic activities and resuming travel within and between countries, travellers are still wary. Touchless technology is a must for reinvigorating the tourism industry when it opens up for business again. Understanding what is at stake, many in the tourism industry are creating the perfect restroom in consonance with the future. 

Few countries in Europe have introduced the idea of ‘Travel Bubbles,’ a concept of travel partnership between neighbouring nations allowing Intra-European travel. Under this policy, the countries that had previously been able to contain or reduce the impact of the coronavirus would open tourism for other countries that have succeeded to limit the number of cases to just a few. This would allow residents to travel between two to three countries without any need for a 14-day quarantine. The travellers would be able to drive between the countries or travel by air, as needed. 

Tourism is an important growth driver of the economy. Since it can also be a super-spreader of the virus, it becomes necessary for airports, highways, and railways to upgrade their restrooms. While airports have already been embracing new technology and design in restrooms to create a positive experience for the customers in the pre-COVID era, it is time for highway authorities and the railways to accelerate the process of creating smart and safe restrooms as well.

Tackling crisis with innovation 

Innovation and automation have been buzzwords since the pre-COVID era of the fourth industrial revolution. However, the need for automation-driven innovation has never been as glaring as in present times. As touchless technology helps reduce the spread of germs in restrooms significantly, it is pertinent to innovate and redefine the restroom experience by getting rid of the need to touch soap and paper towel dispensers and faucets. The correct touchless technology should be able to pick up any movement when in an appropriate range to make handwashing a truly touch-free experience.

It is in this context that the concept of the smart restroom with capacitance-sensing capabilities is emerging as the ideal restroom of future in the post-COVID world. These capabilities permit the faucet to turn itself on and off as soon as a hand breaks the capacitance field. In order to ensure hygiene and safety for users, the automated restrooms also have a bidet seat with seat-warming capabilities and cleansing jets. Apart from this, the enhanced technology can also analyze and monitor the health of the users and minimize water use as well.

It is true that redesigning and installing sensor-based fixtures calls for considerable investment. Nonetheless, there is great value attached, as this would limit the transmission of viruses through infected surfaces. Moreover, the automatic sensor-based faucets save water and energy in the long run. Furthermore, it would create a positive perception about commercial restrooms. Therefore, the value that touchless restrooms bring are well worth the investment.