Heathrow Terminal 2 trials smart loos to monitor usage and alert cleaners

Heathrow airport has installed sensors into its toilets at the newly opened Terminal 2 to monitor the number of people using each unit.

When a certain number of people have used a unit, cleaners are alerted and they are cleaned.

The data is also sent to the cloud so it can be analysed by planners who are then able to see where the highest demand for toilet facilities around the terminal is. In the long term, loos can be added or removed depending on usage trends.

The sensors were developed by embedded computing firm EuroTech, using Intel technology, building on the company's Internet of Things strategy.

Karen Lomas, Intel's director of smart cities and buildings told the BBC: "We have all queued for the loo and the last thing I want to do is go into a dirty toilet...Internet of Things technology should be used to improve decision-making and customer service."

In addition to monitoring how often the toilets are used, the sensors will also collect data about how long it takes cleaners to get to the facility and clean them.

It has been suggested monitoring staff could generate some privacy issues, however, the airport has tried to counter these. Lomas added: "It was already happening as a process with people having to sign a piece of paper so there is no change there. Most employees want customers to have a good experience."

Eurotech has experience monitoring toilet usage. In 2012, the company developed a cloud-based platform to monitor how often train toilets were used on TBM Rail Group's services.

The system once again alerted cleaning staff to dirty toilets or if there was a a blockage or valve failure, it would send a message to the company's control centre so a maintenance team could fix the problem quicker.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.