Rise of the machines: Robots could lead the way in decontaminating our shared spaces

May 30, 2020


Technology is at the forefront of helping people globally adjust as we all navigate the new normal. Nexmed, the strategic partner to UV-D Robots for Sub-Saharan Africa, is bringing some of the most cutting edge of these new technologies here.

Among those that have arrived is the UV-D Robot. It is able to decontaminate 18 000m2 in two and a half hours – that’s two and a half football pitches in less time than it takes to play two football matches.

With the current pandemic severely over-stretching hospitals and making our shared spaces no-go areas, an intervention such as this is a game-changer.

Nexmed CEO Jonathan Burger says: “We manage the entire process end-to-end from importation, to delivery, to training, installation, testing and commissioning.  With the current pandemic and lockdown we have successfully completed remote installations.

“The UV-D Robots are highly effective in destroying pathogens including the Coronavirus and is thus a highly effective instrument in decontaminating hospitals up to 99.999%.  This assists not only now with the Coronavirus pandemic but post COVID-19 with a host of other serious superbugs like MRSA, VRE, CRE, Candida, C.Diff and more.”

How does it work?

The robots are equipped with UV-C light which is germicidal. This means it deactivates the DNA of bacteria, virus and other pathogens and thus destroys their ability to multiply and cause disease. In short, when the organism tries to replicate, it dies.

To put it into perspective – the robot, once programmed with the layout of, say, a surgical theatre, can decontaminate it remotely in just over eight minutes. This means, there is no need for workers to endanger themselves by going into a potentially contaminated area and the process has a significant impact on the reduction of hospital acquired infections (HAI) with some international counterparts seeing between a 40% and 80% reduction in HAI’s, says Burger.

Consider this, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and including the University of Cape Town (UCT), in South Africa it is estimated that around 146 000 surgeries will be cancelled including 12 000 oncology procedures due to the pandemic.

“Each additional week of disruption to hospital services results in an additional 12 000 surgeries being cancelled,” wrote Professor Bruce Biccard, second chair in the Department of Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine at the University of Cape Town in a recent article.

Its applications for a time such as this – and beyond – are legion.

As Burger says: “The main objectives of the UV-D Robot is to drastically reduce harmful pathogens in a particular area, thereby actively contributing significantly to a safer environment for people, whether this is in a hospital setting, or commercial setting, or school, hotel, airport, etc.”

Fast-tracking Africa’s digital transformation

Burger says that Nexmed’s motto is caring through innovation. “Our mission is to always represent, invent, develop or co-create solutions that impact the health of individuals positively, whether that be exclusively in healthcare or farther reaching.

“As a company we are excited to bring best-in-class technologies to Africa as they emerge internationally, or at the same time locally produce such disruptive innovation as they emerge internationally.  We are looking to play a significant part in fast tracking Africa’s exposure and adoption to digital transformation for the overall benefit of advancing healthcare.”

Another of Nexmed’s technologies is the GoBe One Telepresence Robot. Its main purpose, says Burger, is to connect individuals seamlessly while maintaining the human touch.

“Given the new ‘work from home’ strategy to be adopted by a large part of the workforce, many individuals still require to be hands on within their premises, to have meetings, to have insight into their facilities and to communicate as if they were there.  The GoBe One allows this.

“It has a very special application in healthcare whereby it will assist healthcare providers in virtual/remote consultations thereby reducing their exposure to any harmful pathogens.  Due to virtual/remote consultations the healthcare provider will need to utilize less PPE thereby reducing the need.

“We have seen a significant burden placed on the sourcing and providing of PPE, particularly in our public facilities. The GoBe One will therefore aid in saving lives by reducing pathogen exposure.”

For Burger, bringing the technology to the continent was about improving the care patients receive as well as make the experience of caregiving safer. The UV-D robot is used in 50 African countries already and he believes its time is now.

“I believe both the UV-D Robot and GoBe Robot are geared for a time like this.  If we understand the significant challenges we face to maintain decontamination (not sanitization) and social-distancing in hospitals and in the workplace, we realize that both of these devices offer immense value as an ally in achieving these goals, and assisting the workforce in maintaining a safe environment for all.”

A short history of Nexmed’s robots

UV-D Robots ApS was founded in 2016 by Blue Ocean Robotics with the objective of globally commercializing robots based on UV Disinfection solutions for hospitals, hence the name. The incorporation of the company followed a Private Public Innovation project starting in 2014, where Blue Ocean Robotics and Odense University Hospital OUH in partnership with other hospitals in Denmark, developed the first prototype of the UV-Disinfection Robot, with the objective of preventing Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) for the benefit of patients, hospital staff and associated healthcare costs.