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COVID-19 Response: A scalable hand-sanitizing sensing solution: IoT enabled hand sanitizer and soap dispensers.

Written by: Anju Kakkar

Researchers at Humber’s Research & Innovation are working closely with Mero Technologies in developing a universal IoT sensor system to retrofit existing hand sanitizer and soap dispensers.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is now omnipresent in our daily lives, profoundly affecting how devices, data and humans stay interconnected. IoT technology could save lives or simply improve our day-to-day interactions. The growing demand for IoT device prototypes has to be met with an innovative mindset.

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“For tackling challenges like the pandemic, we need a growth mindset,”

says Dr. Ginger Grant, Ph.D., Dean of Research & Innovation, Humber College.

“We need to tap our potential for taking ideas all the way to where they have an impact.”

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Staying ahead of the game…

Mero Technologies Inc. is a technology innovator in the facility-management automation industry, serving commercial properties by providing analytics utilizing small, flexible wireless IoT devices that monitor the metrics behind washroom use and waste.

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With the recent spread of the COVID-19 virus, hand sanitizer use is at an all-time high. For commercial properties to sustainably provide sanitization, monitoring of their supply is a must. Any lapse in refilling sanitization dispensers can promote the virus’s spread and cause further infections in the community.

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Mero: “Our Mission: to foster beautiful, healthy, and sustainable urban environments for all. We are bringing the future of dynamic cleaning.”

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The current challenge Mero is facing is the pairing time of IoT devices to backend data collection and analytics. Mero needs assistance to adapt their latest sensor design for rapid deployment, either as a standalone or retrofit for existing units. Currently, Mero’s sensor works with one dispenser type, and the COVID-19 grant will enable them to develop a universal sensor and adapter. A retrofit sensor solution that notifies cleaning crews when dispensers are low will provide a simple, inexpensive and effective option for facility managers.

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Prime Objectives…To Develop:

– A universal IoT sensor that can be used to retrofit existing hand sanitizer and soap dispensers;

– An on-boarding user flow that allows any layman or non-tech savvy user to install said soap dispenser monitor;

– Packaging and/or box design for shipping to customers.

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Humber’s Office of Research & Innovation (ORI) has successfully earned the grant
– NSERC Rapid Response to COVID-19 Fund

The project aligns with both themes of the NSERC Rapid Response to COVID-19 fund: assisting industry with a production challenge and providing a health solution to the community. This grant will enable Mero to research further into advanced techniques for sensor pairing in the IoT space. Mero sees Humber as a technology partner that can help build on the current innovation. Researchers at Humber are leading students to quickly learn IoT and proprietary Mero Technologies and then get on to do the R&D and assist in creating a seamless product experience. These refinements and the resulting technology will help keep essential workplaces, communities and cities safe during and post the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Now you’ll know before it’s a crisis, staying ahead

of the game, instead of playing catch-up.” – Mero

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The Project Leads…

The Humber research leads are Dr. Tim Wong, Ph.D., Professor, Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology (FAST) as the Principal Investigator, and Sandro Zaccolo, Professor, FAST as the Co-Investigator.

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Dr. Wong holds a Ph.D. in networking from the University of Manchester, UK, and has over 30 years of experience in networking, security, IoT, cloud computing, enterprise software and mobile devices; he is responsible for overseeing the project, leading the development and workflow optimization challenges. Sandro Zaccolo is an industrial designer, leading the development of the casing and mentoring/guiding the industrial design students.

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“I am anticipating success with the project. Humber research encourages the scientific community to come up with ideas to build industry collaborations and assists in acquiring funds to support such initiatives at FAST,” explains Dr. Wong. He adds, “Students who are involved in research will get hired very quickly.”

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The Mero leads are Cole MacDonald, BSc, Co-Founder & Inventor and Nathan Mah, MBA, BSc, Co-founder. Cole acts as the point of contact for technological innovations and product feedback. He is the original inventor of the technology. Nathan is responsible for financing, marketing, and sales at Mero and the pilot implementation.

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Dr. Ginger Grant, Ph.D., Dean of Research & Innovation, Humber College, remains responsible for the leadership, operational guidance, and financial administration of the COVID-19 grant.

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Teamwork and Collaboration within the COVID-19 Context…

The Mero and Humber team are currently working and collaborating remotely. Regular virtual update meetings support progress, feedback and enable the team to troubleshoot issues. Students have remote access to a wide range of design software and continuous mentorship from the research leads.

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Potential for Impact…

Hand sanitizers are vital supplies that must be readily available upon return to public and commercial spaces. We anticipate a greater uptake in the usage of hand sanitizers when the COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed and workplaces and the economy open.

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This project will help reduce the spread of the Coronavirus and other viruses by providing the public with the tools they need to sanitize or wash their hands. The sensor retrofit solution will be able to be used in all sorts of settings—hospitals, health care facilities, long-term care homes, shelters, correctional facilities, airports, office buildings, factories, shopping malls, educational facilities, etc.—reducing the spread of the virus in Canadian communities and abroad.

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Innovation holds the key to unlocking the future.
Research is the key to pursue future innovation systematically.

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The success of projects such as these is an outcome we are enthusiastic about sharing with our audience. Expect an update from us in the coming months.

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In the meantime, we want to hear from you. What are some of the projects you are leading? What’s in the pipeline for your organization? Leave a comment on our social channels.

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To get involved with Humber Research & Innovation visit: https://www.humber.ca/research/get-involved/