Meet Scrub 50 - the smart robot hailed as the future of cleaning

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From left: Mr Aloysius Chong, director of Gaussian Robotics, Mr Jason Foo, director of the building management division of JTC, and Mr Kelvin Lee, chief commercial officer of WIS holdings, posing with Scrub 50. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Robot cleaners could soon hit the floors of commercial buildings in Singapore to ease the burden on their human counterparts.

Scrub 50, touted as Singapore's first fully autonomous cleaning robot, has been developed jointly by property developer JTC, WIS Holdings and Gaussian Robotics and was unveiled at the JTC Cleantech One building at Jurong Innovation District on Wednesday (July 4).

The three companies hope the 1.1m tall robot will provide a solution to the labour crunch in the cleaning industry caused by an ageing workforce.

Mr Aloysius Chong, director of Gaussian Robotics, said: "It has sensors to detect which part of the building it's at, it sends reports after it finishes cleaning a particular area and there's no danger of it bumping into people or objects because it's equipped with laser detectors, cameras and sensors. In the future we may get it to talk and say 'excuse me'."

Chief commercial officer of WIS Holdings, Mr Kelvin Lee, pointed out that it is harder to hire young and able-bodied locals as cleaners today, as compared with 40 years ago. The company provides services such as cleaning and landscaping.

"The demographics of Singapore have been changing and we now have an ageing batch of cleaning staff who will soon retire and a harder time with hiring young workers," he said.

Mr Lee also cited increased client expectations as a reason for developing Scrub 50, which is able to clean a given area thoroughly and far more quickly than the average cleaner.

Where daily scrubbing of 5,000 square metres over a one-month period would require a cleaner to put in 300 hours of work, the robot takes 130 hours, its developers claim.

Scrub 50 can also sense when its battery charge or clean water supply is low. Without human intervention, it can direct itself to its docking station, where it charges itself, rinses its tanks and refills with water.

Research and development efforts for the robot were started in 2016 and up to $500,000 could be spent on development and testing of the prototype.

Scrub 50 is being tested at the Cleantech One building, but JTC and its partners hope to get it up and running in other buildings later this year.

JTC hopes that the robot, which only requires two hours of checks from cleaning staff each month, will be able to free up operations and cleaning staff to focus on higher value duties such as supervision.

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