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Interview: Thomas Midtgaard, Vice President of Marketing, Blue Ocean Robotics

 

With the rapid growth of robotics and cloud technology in the cleaning industry, it is but natural that soon cleaning service providers are going to get a large pie to grab a piece from.

 

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Interview: Thomas Midtgaard, Vice President of Marketing, Blue Ocean Robotics
 

 This issue, we speak to Thomas Midtgaard-Jørgensen, Vice President of Marketing at Blue Ocean Robotics, who highlights the integral role of robotics in the cleaning industry.

What, in your opinion, is the importance of Robotics in today’s day and age?

The robotic industrial revolution has already begun. The Founding Partners of Blue Ocean Robotics have been in the field of robotics since 1988. They have been part of the emerging development up through the 80s-90s-00s, and they tell you this much - in the recent 4 years, more development within the field has happened than in the past 14. It’s a very exciting time if you seek to enter into the field of robotics as it is an exponentially growing industry but also an industry that has its challenges as it is still very small with few suppliers and a limited workforce.

The reason the industry is exponentially growing is because of the development within computing power. Today, you can buy a chip for USD1,000 that has the same capacity as the brain of a field vole. In 2023, it is estimated that the same computer chip will have the computing capacity of a human brain. This has a huge impact on the field of robotics as we need trustworthy and reliable AI sensoring if we are to bring robots out of their cages and into open environments. Today we, at least at Blue Ocean Robotics, have solutions that are intelligent enough to function in open spaces with a high level of security.

In terms of the economic perspective, the computer chips will over time only get cheaper with a higher computing capacity. Today, competitive economies need to adapt to this technological development if they want to regain or at least remain competitive with low wage countries. You need to transform low-value creating jobs into high-value creating jobs. We are required to work until we can’t anymore at an age of 75 or higher. At that age, you can’t lift as much, you can’t bend that far, and you are more likely to get ill - with the robotic technology, industries can uphold steady productivity, and humans can stay on the job market longer in good spirit. So, robotics are of the highest important, and the applications are to some extend endless.

Tell us about Blue Ocean Robotics. What is the company philosophy?

At Blue Ocean Robotics we strive to create and commercialise robot solutions that improve quality-of-life, working environments and productivity. We strive to be the lead partner in creating and commercialising robots for endusers, partners and robotic communities worldwide. This way, we apply robot technology to create solutions and innovation for end-users and businesses in partnerships.

How has Blue Ocean Robotics contributed to the cleaning industry over the years since it was formed?

Through our RoBi-X partnership programme, we have contributed a lot. The partnership programme contains four steps - RoBi-Design, RoBi-Develop, RoBi-GoToMarket and RoBi-Invest - the latter being our funding programme. We have designed, developed and commercialised (GTM) a long range of solutions to the cleaning industry since 2013 - the time when the founding partners and Co-CEOs Claus Risager, Rune K. Larsen and John Erland Oestergaard established the company.

Hospitals, governments and private companies have come to us with problem statements or products they wished to include in the programme. Through a rough evaluation, we have partnered with these and included the statements in the partnership programme - this way, we create solutions that have an actual user case and application. And, we are continuously open to hearing out more problem statements that need a solution. There is no limitation to what is possible - we make solutions not only for the healthcare industry, but also for manufacturing, education, agriculture and fishery, construction, security and surveillance and off-shore.

Give us a detailed brief about the various cleaning technologies you have.

We have two key products for the cleaning industry – specifically in healthcare applications. The UV-Disinfection Robot is an autonomous disinfection robot for production lines and pharmaceutical companies, to be used primarily in the cleaning cycle with the aim of reducing spread of infectious diseases, viruses, bacteria, and other types or harmful organic materials. The robot drives autonomously through the production and targets a pre-defined area that you wish to disinfect. Ten minutes of exposure time kills up to 99% of bacteria such as Clostridium Difficile.

The robot has been developed with the vision of a user-friendly and flexible disinfection tool for the healthcare and production sector, which is why it requires virtually no human interaction and therefore has a minimal impact on the staff's workflow.

The Floor-Washing Robot is well suited to operate in larger areas, such as corridors, halls, entrances and other areas in a hospital where frequent cleaning is needed. The robot handles the heavy floor washing, while the staff takes care of more specialized tasks, such as cleaning mirrors, wash basins etc. The staff only needs to change the water and cleaning detergents. The robot is built on Swiss experience from manual-operated floor washing machines. The only difference now is that the employee who used to operate the machine, can now work on higher-level tasks.

It operates autonomously up to 1.5 hours, and will be able to clean 750-1200 square meters depending on the surroundings. The robot is equipped with a variety of sensors, which enables it to recognize, for example, patients and other obstacles and navigate around them. When finishing its route, the robot returns to the area and if the obstacle has moved, the floor will be cleaned in that area.

What do you think will be the impact of robotics on cleaning and hygiene today?

In most healthcare scenarios, we experience that a robot cannot replace all human warm hands - the technology has its limitations. Yet, we also experience that the ratio of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) drop significantly with the use of robot technology. You remove the aspect of human error caused by busy schedules, limited resources in cleaning processes. You also limit the time used for cleaning when a patient has been occupying a room with a severe disease. Instead of closing down the room for 7 days to clean it - you can limit the time spend to 1 day.

In what capacity are you present in the Middle East? Tell us about your plans for the UAE.

We are currently present with several Sales Partners and our Joint Venture in Turkey. We are of course open for partnership requests in areas where we are not yet present, but until then we are offer our solutions here.

UAE is a very interesting market for us. We seek, of course, to extend partnerships in the fields where we do not already have partnerships. The ideal would be to acquire a Joint Venture partner in the area, and we are on the lookout - so if you have any potentials, ideas or referrals do not hesitate to contact us for more information about our Sales and Joint Venture Partnerships. The UAE and the Arab Peninsula in general has a lot of potential to develop or adapt robotic solutions and it could likewise also boost the economy. The user cases are similar to those anywhere else in the world, and we have the solutions adapt into these applications.

What do you think is the growth of robotics across the world?

As mentioned before, the user cases are similar to those anywhere else in the world, and we have the solutions to adapt into these applications. The market for robotics is exponentially growing. We are still at an early stage, and the opportunities are many - so if you want to jump on the rocket going up, now is the time. We see the Chinese market experiencing issues with a growing middle-class, same goes for the Americas. In Europe, we see companies bring production lines back to their domestic country because the robot technology is enabling for a cheaper, more productive and more reliant production. In the Healthcare sector, we see a steady growth rate in adaptation as this is an industry where coins are being turned and solutions with a high ROI are needed. The market is growing rapidly and we have barely seen the beginning.