Founded in 2000 and headquartered in Texas, FloorBotics is a robotic software and hardware development company responding to the market demand for cost-effective alternatives to labor-intensive floor cleaning equipment, including a line of set-and-forget robotic cleaners. The company’s innovative products rely on proprietary navigation software, compact physical designs, and connectivity from Digi XBee® Cellular modules to reduce costs, increase safety, and eliminate drudgery in floor cleaning.
It’s the $30 billion problem that just won’t go away: hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). In the healthcare industry – where lowering costs and improving outcomes are the overarching goals – too many patients enter a hospital, only to contract an infection from a hospital environment that can be very difficult to keep clean. A nurse call-button quickly hits the floor before the patient picks it up again. A patient’s gown or a blanket briefly touches the floor, where germs and viruses silently attach themselves to be transmitted to the patient.
When a patient’s stay is extended (or the patient is readmitted) due to an HAI, the hospital often bears the full cost of treatment. Penalties can accrue and rankings can suffer, making hospitals all the more motivated to provide and maintain high standards of cleanliness. But traditional cleaning techniques often fall short, leaving behind germs that can infect patients.
Enter Sanibot™, the patented robot developed by FloorBotics. Like the robotic floor vacuums that are popular in consumer markets, Sanibot™ offers a set-and-forget, unattended cleaning experience. The difference: instead of using a vacuum to suck up dust, dirt, and particles, Sanibot™ shines a controlled beam of ultraviolet light to disinfect the floor surface.
According to Duncan Ashworth, founder of FloorBotics, the goal was to create a smart battery-operated appliance that could create new levels of cleanliness. “When you deploy a fleet of these devices, you need a way to centrally manage and monitor their status and progress,” he explained. “That means that Sanibot™ needs wireless communications as it moves around the hospital. We turned to Digi for that important piece of the puzzle.”
To achieve that wireless connectivity, FloorBotics engineers selected the Digi XBee® Cellular LTE CAT 1 modem, which combines the power and flexibility of the Digi XBee ecosystem while providing 4G connectivity, built-in security, and design flexibility for IoT applications.Contributing to FloorBotics’ selection of the Digi solution, a bundled data plan is included with every fully pre-provisioned development kit that’s ready to communicate over the cellular network right out of the box. Digi XBee Cellular modems are bundled together with Digi Remote Manager® software that enables FloorBotics’ customers to remotely monitor and manage Sanibot™ robots and also provide over-the-air (OTA) remote firmware upgrades.
According to Ashworth, during the development phase, wireless communication with the Sanibot prototype was essential. “Normally, when you develop an application, it’s on a computer – you write the software, run it, and debug it,” he said. “But with a robot, your computer is running away from you! With Digi in place, we were able to trace commands and instructions and replay log files. We couldn’t have debugged our robot without that capability."
“Digi had tools that were easy to use. We ordered a development kit and had it up and running very quickly. The cellular plan worked right out of the box – and we were really pleased with that. Plus, the data rates are super-low.”
In production models, the Sanibot can send text messages about status, error codes (e.g. lamp failure or motor problem), battery life, and other metrics. Customers can monitor each Sanibot’s progress and activities from a smartphone or computer. These text strings go to a database, which can also send an alert to a smartphone. For instance, it might report a closed door or send an “I’m done” when a room is complete.
“Maintaining 100 percent uptime is the goal for Sanibot™ in order for customers to receive the maximum value,” said Ashworth, “so maintaining communication with the fleet of Sanibots is essential to prevent or respond to issues as quickly as possible. Our goal has been to make the Sanibot as easy to use as a CD player. You just put it on the floor and hit start. It builds a map of the area, covers the floor in the most efficient manner, and knows when it’s done. Thanks to the wireless connection, the customer always knows the status.
“We envision Sanibots being an ideal cleaning appliance in other settings too, such as daycare facilities and nursing homes or even the residences of immunocompromised patients receiving therapies at home, such as dialysis. That will require smart, efficient, and inexpensive connectivity – and that’s what Digi provides us.”