Akara Robotics launches Violet to make hospital cleaning times up to 8 times faster

An Irish company leading the charge in modernizing public health has today launched its latest product at Web Summit 2020. Akara Robotics, based at The Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties, unveiled the robot – called Violet – for the first time today.

Violet is designed to assist in alleviating pressure and freeing up more time for health professionals to conduct important procedures through quick and effective cleaning practices, using ultra-violet technology to kill bacteria and viruses including Covid-19, influenza and MRSA.

She is the sister of Akara’s first product Stevie, which was designed to live and work in retirement communities, augmenting rather than replacing the role of carers, by helping residents stay socially connected to friends and family and cognitively stimulated through games and quizzes. Stevie made the cover of Time Magazine in 2019.

Hospitals are facing unprecedented challenges in coping with existing waiting times for many procedures, with the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating problems even further. Hospital-acquired infections (HAI) cost both lives and financial resources each year with 670 in-patients in Irish hospitals with a HAI on any given day. This translates to 30,000 people a year contracting HAIs in Irish hospitals.

Radiology departments in particular are constrained by expensive and immoveable equipment needing to be cleaned after each use, a practice which can last up to 60 minutes should a deep clean be required after use by an infectious patient. Violet can make this cleaning process up to 8 times faster, reducing cleaning time to as little as 5 minutes in most settings. In real terms, this can lead to a cost saving of more than €5,000 per day for radiology departments.

Violet is the first robot using UV disinfectant technology which is safe to use around humans. This brings two advantages to hospitals aside from the time to taken to clean rooms or wards. Firstly, rooms do not need to be evacuated during a clean as they do with traditional chemical misting practices which means staff can continue to work while Violet cleans, further impacting productivity and delivery of service. Secondly, Violet can be used in areas where current chemical or UV cleaning practices are not suitable including waiting areas or ICUs. Based on recent testing at Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore,  Violet was configured to achieve a success rate of between 90% and 99% in eliminating germ concentration with longer cleaning cycles yielding higher results.

Violet is not just useful for healthcare settings, but in many other sectors where efficient cleaning is a necessity like aviation, shared office spaces and retail settings. This is particularly important looking ahead to changes that the Covid-19 pandemic will bring globally, with hygiene and effective recording of cleaning processes paramount.

Unlike some artificial intelligence technologies, Violet is specifically designed to work in tandem with humans. Due to the cost savings generated, Violet’s deployment can allow hospitals to alleviate the need to hire additional support personnel while protecting job security of existing staff. It also promotes better and safer work practices through the removal of the use of toxic chemicals with can pose a risk to hospital staff and wider communities.

Conor McGinn, co-founder and CEO of Akara Robotics, said:

“Violet is the product of 2 years’ worth of innovation and hard work, but in reality, is a system which has been over 100 years in the making. Cleaning methods in hospitals and care settings around the world have largely gone unchanged since before the Spanish Flu in the early 1900s, and Covid-19 has accelerated the need to address this issue. Violet is the culmination of that history and presents hospitals with a system which doesn’t just save lives and money but is designed to work alongside existing frontline staff.”

Noreen Hynes, General Manager of Midlands Regional Hospital Tullamore, said:

“Violet represents a real step change in how hospitals and care settings can use technology to improve on current practices. Akara have existing pedigree is developing innovative, digital health solutions which are human-centric, and seeing Violet in action on our wards has benefitted our operational approach. In particular, Violet’s interaction with existing staff was excellent to see.”

Fiach MacConghail, CEO of The Digital Hub, said:

“Since Akara joined us in 2019 they have continued to innovate at an incredible pace. Violet was largely built at The Digital Hub campus, so we have seen first-hand how it operates and its effectiveness in settings outside of healthcare. I have no doubt that Akara will continue to go from strength to strength over the coming years and become a name synonymous with digital transformation in healthcare.”

Images and video footage of Violet in operation can be found here.