Following the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, global emphasis on hand hygiene has never been stronger. However, while people understand the need to wash their hands, many often neglect to sanitize their mobile devices, which are proven to be up to 18 times dirtier than a public toilet.
This is where CleanSlate UV, a Toronto-based intelligent biosafety startup offering a hospital-grade, chemical-free sanitizer for smartphones and personal items, can help solve the problem. With over 2,500 deployments globally, they have successfully brought their solution across a variety of sectors including healthcare, transportation, corporate, retail, hospitality, and food processing.
Positioning itself as not only a UV-C device manufacturer but also a solution provider, CleanSlate UV has a goal to help clients break the chain of infection in hospitals and public spaces. DIGITIMES Asia recently spoke to company co-founder, Scott Mason, and CEO, Manjunath Anand, to learn more about CleanSlate UV and how the solution can benefit its users.
Leveraging UV-C light to break the chain of Infection
CleanSlate UV was founded in June 2014 at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada. According to Mason, the development of CleanSlate UV's flagship device was inspired by a policy at Kingston General Hospital that prohibited bringing cell phones inside neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and intensive care units (ICUs) because they can harbor bacteria and viruses.
The CleanSlate device harnesses the power of UV light, which is normally blocked by the ozone layer, and has wavelengths between 100-280 nm. UV-C light is a 220-year-old technology that can be used to inactivate bacteria and viruses by disrupting their DNA and RNA, as emphasized by Anand.
Compared to traditional chemical wipes, which tend to damage the screens of mobile devices, the CleanSlate can sanitize multiple items in 20 seconds and inactivate up to 99.9998% of the most resilient bacteria and viruses without harming sensitive touchscreens, cameras, or IR sensors. It is currently the fastest sanitizer with the highest efficacy available on the market, and it provides two and a half times more doses of UV light in 20 seconds than any other competition, said Mason.
Another thing that makes CleanSlate unique is its touch-free lid removal feature. After users place their items inside the sanitizer and close the lid, the device immediately prompts them to clean their hands. Once the 20-second sanitization cycle is up, the lid will automatically open, and the users can retrieve their items without having to touch anything else but their sanitized devices. Essentially, this process ensures that clean devices are touched by clean hands.
In addition, the device requires no user training, making it easy for doctors and nurses to use during their busy schedules.
The CleanSlate device can also come with an adjustable stand and a mount that allows the installation of hand sanitizers, gloves, PPE dispensers, and other accessories.
According to a study conducted in Canada's First Smart Hospital in Toronto, the CleanSlate sanitizer can increase handwashing behaviors by 55-110% at locations where it is deployed. Conversely, hand hygiene events are found to decrease by 55% when the sanitizer is removed from a location. This emphasizes the concept that CleanSlate can do more than just sanitize mobile devices, but also play a direct role in hand hygiene.
CleanSlate sanitizer is proven to improve handwashing behaviors by 55-110% at locations where it is deployed. Credit: CleanSlate UV
Benefits of intelligent sanitization solutions
The CleanSlate sanitizer is an IoT device that allows for various connectivity options. This enables facilities to access device usage and analytics through an online dashboard or mobile app and make smarter hygiene decisions. With this feature, control practitioners can learn from staff behaviors and identify a choke point or high traffic area to achieve better device and hand hygiene compliance.
The usage data of the sanitizer also allows CleanSlate to know whether its product is being used to maximum capacity.
In the future, CleanSlate wants to partner with app developers to offer a solution that can detect whether a mobile device has been sanitized before it is allowed into hospital wards. The apps will also check hand cleanliness, said Anand, who described this as the company's ultimate goal.
Meanwhile, Anand said a major challenge for CleanSlate prior to the COVID-19 pandemic was the lack of visual change to items after they are sanitized by the CleanSlate device.
"UV light is black box magic. As a human being, you want to see some changes, either in the form of being wet or having some sort of smell. You need that feedback to say something happened to your phone," said Anand.
"This was a challenge for us before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has helped people understand more about how UV light works, and demand for CleanSlate sanitizers has increased exponentially," he explained.
Exploring partnerships in Taiwan
Besides hospitals, CleanSlate UV has a huge presence in food processing facilities, said Mason. Demand for CleanSlate sanitizer at transportation hubs, which had not been on the company's radar, also surged significantly during the pandemic, he pointed out, noting their full-facility deployment in Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada's largest International Airport.
CleanSlate sanitizer is also deployed at retail and mall locations, and corporate environments as well.
Anand said the COVID-19 pandemic has opened the doors for CleanSlate UV in non-healthcare markets as infection prevention takes the highest priority across all industries.
In terms of countries, Mason said approximately 70% of the company's operation is in the US, while 10% is in Canada and 20% is elsewhere. He said the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) Taiwan business program has provided a perfect opportunity for the company to pivot into Taiwan and other Asian markets.
Although Taiwan helps manufacture the CleanSlate sanitizer, the product has yet to be introduced to the Taiwanese market. Mason said CleanSlate UV is hoping to expand its presence in Asia, which has many cutting-edge technologies in healthcare.
After introducing its flagship sanitizer in 2018, CleanSlate UV launched its CleanCloud software enterprise platform in November 2021 and its cloud-based sensor network CleanHands this March. It is on track to introduce the fourth product for wider use cases in October, and the product will be mainly manufactured in Taiwan.
CleanSlate UV closed a US$7 million Series A financing round in March 2020, and it has used the funds to complete the mass scaling and commercialization of the CleanSlate product. Given the outstanding organic growth under the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has a focus on expanding its product line while evaluating a Series B funding opportunity.
Scott Mason, co-founder of CleanSlate UV
Manjunath Anand, CEO of CleanSlate UV