When we say “cleaning automation”, you might think of robots. And you are not wrong. But it’s more than that. Cleaning Automation is the movement to replace human labor with software and robotics over time. Today, most of the industry is focused on software, but robots should play an increasing role in the 2020s.
Vacuuming robots became a big deal recently, and quite honestly, why wouldn't they? They make our lives easier by taking care of a chore that nobody likes to do. (If you are one of the few people that enjoy vacuuming and/or sweeping, please don’t hate on us).
But having a Roomba at home doesn’t mean completely automating your house cleaning. And it certainly does not encompass the whole market of cleaning automation. For an industry that drives U$1T globally every year, there needs to be more.
So imagine having a digital twin of your property and receiving timely reminders regarding maintenance and general upkeep. Did you know that you are supposed to check on your water heater every year, for example? Or that you should consider trimming your trees yearly, as well?
Having these reminders saves you hundreds of dollars and a ton of headaches, plus basically takes you out of the equation: software is doing the work. There’s more: you could upload to-do lists based on your priorities for the home, find a professional cleaner (we call them pros, by the way) with the tap of a few buttons, and never have to make a single phone call in the process.
Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
A system that completely automates every single part that can be automated, such as scheduling, to-do lists, mapping the area, syncing booking calendars, ensuring a pro is on the way, tracking the jobs, etc., is possible. In fact, it already exists.
Human labor is crucial, but can - and should be - supercharged with smart software. This needs to be a technology-driven market. We usually spend two whole hours a day on chores. We could spend little to none with cleaning automation.
Or do you really think the future that awaits us has us still cleaning toilets? (Not if it’s up to us.)
How have others failed trying to tackle this?
Many companies have tried and failed to tackle this market, and still today none in the industry owns more than 1% of the market share. Taskrabbit, HomeJoy, Handy, Takl, and Exec are a few that used the “Uber approach” to cleaning.
But they failed to see some very important points.
First of all, Uber is a commodity. Quality matters way less than you getting from point A to point B. Whereas in home cleanings, quality is paramount. Plus, each house and customer is different and demands to be tailored to.
Then, Uber's biggest value is offering low prices and wait time, both of which benefit tremendously by scaling the business. Definitely not the same with home cleanings. Scaling up was never going to work.
Today, only 67% of people rate their home cleaning experience as positive. Average Yelp reviews on professionals is only two stars, and customers have reported having had their lives ruined by a bad cleaning service.
So if the future is not the Uberization of yet another market, then what is?
Cleaning automation using technology
A step further in cleaning automation is mixing human labor, software, and machines: yes, the robots! Today we have wonderful gadgets available like the ones our friends from iRobot (link) make and should be getting many more soon. From first principles, looking at the activities involved in home services like cleaning, they are mapped to specific technology problems:
The bottom of that pyramid takes an insane amount of time: understanding the home’s current state. Most pros spend a whole quoting session figuring that out. In fact, that corresponds to a great chunk of the cost of cleaning jobs.
Then, most clients don’t actually know what they want, so it is up to the pro to extract the client’s ideal state, and with that come up with a plan on how to get the job done. Hint: AI is much better at this than humans.
Finally getting to the top of the pyramid: coordinating materials, workers, and information. Overall, pros cancel 25% of the time, and clients do so 15% of the time. With that much uncertainty and unreliability, this step becomes a huge inconvenience.
Time to do the actual work: Roomba is doing its job, but mostly only humans are capable of doing the physical work. This is the scenario for one household. Imagine it for people who own multiple properties or have to manage a rental portfolio - in 2022, that’s the reality for about 9 million Americans.
Our vision is that cleaning will soon be completely automated, meaning: robots and humans working together, powered by real smart software. This might seem farfetched, but we promise it isn’t. We should have many more gadgets available by 2025 that will make this scenario possible.
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The state of the industry today is zero to little software, plus home cleanings are expensive, not widely available or accessible, and have inconsistent quality. We are focused on phase 1: software and AI-based smarts in the home, making humans smarter and better, supercharged with software.
Basically what guides us is: “if we could have robots ready to work tomorrow, what would they need to be successful at cleaning automation?”. So we came up with features such as mapping the customer’s home, a specific list of what the customer wants, and instructions on how to deliver it. Yes, these all already exist.
Human-robot hybrid operations
This is a phase when we will see a human onsite with one or more robots. The machines will focus on their specialty, allowing humans to handle the many edge cases that exist. At first, robots will only be able to handle specific tasks such as scrubbing toilets or dusting, but that will already free up valuable human time and resources.
This is a key transition phase for the industry because here is where we begin the process of increasing service quality and saving human resources at scale. This will start around 2025 and last for a while… most likely 20 years. No butler robot just yet, but almost there!
Remote Pilot Robots
Phase three is here: after years of human-robot hybrid work, here comes the autonomous home services. Robots will enter the homes by themselves and do all the tasks without the need for human supervision.
This can be done with some remote control of sorts, and if a problem is found, humans at a control center will be able to solve it. A little delay in the cleaning will do no harm. At this stage, customers worldwide may be served by a call center of remote pilots with economies of scale.
Once robots become completely autonomous and independent, well… the world will look nothing like it does now. Let’s talk about it some other time.
Cleaning automation is the future, and we are living the early stages of it, today. A combination of human and machine labor with specialized software, which allows us to make home cleanings affordable, available, and more efficient for everyone.
No more scrubbing toilets for you.
TIDY is the leading company in cleaning automation in the US, and we have done it with powerful AI that works for your specific needs. Plus, we work well with all property management systems that you use and love, and sync with all booking platforms (yes, that’s Airbnb, Booking.com, and all the others). Right now, we are supercharging humans. Real soon, we’ll have robots at our pros’ disposal. Sign up for TIDY today to automate your cleanings.
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