Calgary Herald

Software firm flush with toilet technology

- BILL MAH

Shoppers at Crossiron Mills mall who notice the toilet paper is running low can just tell Wanda.

Wanda is not the woman who tends the biffies at the shopping centre just north of Calgary. The name stands for Washroom Attendant and Digital Advertisin­g network.

The technology was developed by Edmonton-based software developer Visionstat­e Inc., and installed days ago at the centre’s busiest washrooms.

Wanda features a 17-inch industrial touch screen mounted at the entrance to the washrooms. It replaces the sheet of paper tacked to the wall of commercial washrooms that logs maintenanc­e.

“It’s just a way for us to monitor the state of the washrooms,” said Crossiron Mills general manager James Moller. “But it also gives the opportunit­y for the customers to give us feedback and let us know if it’s not up to standard.”

Staff use the screen to log in and record their cleaning activities.

Patrons can push a button to alert staff of anything amiss in the washroom, including emergencie­s. The alerts go to the smartphone­s of managers who dispatch workers.

A traffic counter keeps track of how many people use the washroom, which allows cleaners to adjust their schedules.

“Previously, you’d send in a cleaner every half an hour whether it needed it or not. Now, if nobody goes in there for half an hour and no one calls, you’re not wasting those resources.”

Moller says there’s a good reason to invest in public washrooms.

“Our customers tell us that after the retailers’ stores, it’s the next most important thing. Good public washrooms provide an experience when you’re here shopping and our customers are here for several hours, so the chance they’re going to use the washroom is pretty high.”

Wanda uses a web-based content-management system to manage the screen. When the screen is not being used, it displays the time and date and the last time the washroom was cleaned.

A section of the screen can be dedicated to branding and advertisin­g.

Wanda, known affectiona­tely as the “Crap App,” was developed because Visionstat­e is diversifyi­ng its product line beyond interactiv­e directorie­s for malls and other commercial properties.

“The reason we did that was simply because of what happened with the real estate bust and some of our customers were really affected by that and our market dried up,” said Visionstat­e CEO John Putters.

The app started when Crossiron Mills told the company there was a need to improve the technology used in washrooms.

“We thought there was a tremendous upside because, if they’re having issues with their public washrooms, then probably everybody else in the market was having issues.”

Putters said prospectiv­e buyers for Wanda include other shopping centres, museums and airports.

“Anybody with a public washroom, frankly, is a potential market.”

Visionstat­e, a division of CSM Systems Corp., has also created smartphone apps for shoppers to find their way around Edmonton’s Southgate Centre and South Edmonton Common as well as a mobile guide to the Edmonton Heritage Festival.

 ?? John Lucas, Edmonton Journal ?? Visionstat­e president John Putters with the company’s new washroom cleaning applicatio­n — Wanda.
John Lucas, Edmonton Journal Visionstat­e president John Putters with the company’s new washroom cleaning applicatio­n — Wanda.

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