Local councils are responsible for providing and maintaining a range of public services within their local area, including facilities such as public toilets that promote health, hygiene, and the well-being of their local communities.
Public toilets need to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities, the elderly, and families with young children. This involves ensuring that toilets are well-maintained, clean, safe, and equipped with appropriate facilities such as accessible ramps, baby changing facilities, and handwashing stations.
Furthermore, the provision of public toilets can also be seen as a way to encourage tourism and support local businesses by providing a clean and accessible public space. This is particularly important in areas that are popular tourist destinations or have high visitor foot traffic.
Many local councils in Australia lock their public toilets at night (e.g from 10pm-7am) which may cause inconvenience for some individuals, but it is often necessary to ensure the safety, cleanliness, and sustainability of these important public facilities.
Public toilets can be a target for anti-social behavior and criminal activity, particularly at night when they are less likely to be ‘community’ monitored. Locking the toilets at night can help to deter unwanted activity and reduce the risk of vandalism or other forms of damage, and the associated repair costs. Further local councils often have limited resources for cleaning and maintaining public toilets, and locking them at night can help to reduce the amount of cleaning and maintenance required. This can also help to reduce the costs associated with ongoing operations.
In some cases, public toilets may be locked at night to allow for cleaning and disinfecting to take place. This is particularly important during times of high public health concern, such as during a pandemic or outbreak of an infectious disease. Public toilets can also be a source of litter and waste, and locking them at night can help to reduce the amount of litter and waste generated during non-operating hours. This can help to reduce the environmental impact of the facilities and promote sustainable waste management practices.
In Australia, many local councils outsource the responsibility of locking their public toilets at night to private security firms also know as ‘mobile patrol security companies’. This is because council employees are not usually qualified or equipped to handle this safety and security task, and the late-night hours often require high overtime rates and insurance fees. However, hiring private security firms can be expensive. For example Digital Keys is working with a small local council in Victoria, Australia that pays over AUD$350,000 per year to employ four security guards and two cars to lock around 50 council public toilets every night. According to data from the Australian Government's Job Outlook website, as of May 2021, the average annual salary for a security guard in Australia is approximately $54,600 and there are ongoing costs such as vehicle expenses and insurance fees. For larger councils with hundreds of public toilets, these private security company annual fees can be millions of dollars. To address this issue, local councils are searching for automatic smart locking systems that can save them and ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by eliminating the need to pay for private security firms to perform this locking service.
Specific scenarios and considerations
To implement an automatic smart locking system for public toilets, it is crucial to consider the scenario where individuals may still be inside the toilets when the locking process is initiated every night. The system needs to ensure that the public toilet is empty before locking the doors at a predetermined time, such as 10 pm. Additionally, it is necessary to ensure that the door is closed to engage the lock.
To address these concerns, a standard door closer installed at the top of the door can ensure that the door always closes and the lock engages. A motion detector or heartbeat sensor installed on the ceiling can scan the public toilet area and notify local police authorities if someone is still inside the toilet after say 10pm closing time. Bylaws about trespassing and signage throughout the toilets and on the doors can inform the public that motion sensors will detect their presence after 10 pm and that local police will be automatically notified. Those found inside the public toilets after the designated time will be fined accordingly.
Product solution architecture
Digital Keys IoT platform hosted at AWS cloud servers in local region
The platform uses the AWS Eventbridge and AWS Lambda to schedule an unlocking/locking task based on a time based trigger.(e.g 7am every morning and 10pm every evening)
The lock/unlocking task is sent as a SMS message command (which also wakes up the lock from sleep mode) and the public door locks/unlocks.
Heartbeat sensor sends SMS message with Toilet identifier (location) to local police if triggered
5G IoT network
5G IoT smartlock
in-built SIM card
inbuilt SIM card
AWS Cloud Servers
Notification sent from hearbeat sensor
Digital Keys IoT Platform
By not employing the local security mobile patrol team to lock the 50 public toilet doors every night, the local council is able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. This budget saving can be utilized to construct additional public toilets in public parks.
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