Bathroom Automation: Not Exactly a Good Time July 1, 2011Posted by Sean in : Rant! , trackback
If you’ve been to a public restroom in the last 5 years, you may have noticed a change in the way business is done. Toilets that know when you leave, sinks that know when you arrive, soap dispensers that know when you need soap, and paper towel dispensers that know EXACTLY how much towel to dispense. AWESOME RIGHT?
Maybe, but let’s digress for a minute…I have motion sensors installed in two rooms in my house and they’re great! When I walk into a room the lights come on. This is especially useful when I have my hands full of groceries (or when I’m carrying my girlfriend over the threshold). Plus, I can leave a room and know that after a short time, the lights will go off automatically; saving me time and money. There is a downside though… When I’m sitting in the room for more than 10 minutes without moving, the lights fade and will shut off if I don’t wave my arms around or get up from my seat. When friends are visiting, they often stop in the middle of a thought to ask why the lights are dimming… or to ask why I’m waving my arms around like a crazy person. Once I explain things, the conversation begins again and we all take turns keeping the lights on.
OK, back to the bathrooms… Building maintenance organizations love automation for the same reason I love my motion sensors… conservation of resources. When dispensers were manual, vandals could easily leave the water on, or dispense a huge amount of paper towels and clog up the toilets. With automation, vandals have a really hard time leaving the water on, or getting enough paper towels to clog up the toilets, or getting all of the soap out of the dispenser… they can still do it, but the time it takes is greater than their attention span, or patience levels, so I’m sure that resource waste is down…
So what’s the rub? Bathroom automation was designed to protect, not serve. Since building owners can tune the water delivery system to dispense a specific amount of water each time the sensor is triggered.. in a perfect world, the water delivery system could be tuned to the soap dispenser to allow for the ‘perfect’ wash/rinse distribution, but it rarely is. Most times I have to wave my hands in front of the sensor to get additional water, and ultimately water runs for some time after I’m finished washing. In an ideal world, the paper towel dispenser would know how much paper towel I needed (based on my hand size, or the moisture reading it took when it noticed my hands were there) but it doesn’t. So I end up taking two runs with the paper towel dispenser and causing more waste than if I had a manual option. The other drawback is the power source.. these things don’t work without power, and that leaves me with a shirt as the alternative for drying my hands when the batteries are dead. Overall, the automated bathroom is beneficial to society and business owners, but it certainly could stand to be improved.